Physicians may soon be able to determine the aggressiveness of hepatocellular carcinoma by studying the expression of the tumor-suppressing gene Rb2/p130 and the protein Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, according to a team of researchers in Temple University.
Scientists led by Pier Paolo Claudio, associate professor of biotechnology at the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine in the Center for Biotechnology at Temple, found an inverse correlation between the expression of Rb2 and VEGF in the tumors when studying 21 hepatocellular carcinoma samples.
The researchers “found some of them [tumor samples] had a little Rb2 expression and some of them had no Rb2 expression,” Claudio, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “And all of this correlated with an opposite level of VEGF in each sample.”
He said that the lower the Rb2 expression and the higher the VEGF expression, “the more aggressive the liver cancer.” He added in the statement that his findings remained the same “regardless of whether the tumor was in an early or an advanced stage.”
“Rb2 and VEGF expression are independent from the tumor’s stage of development, suggesting these two proteins play a potential role as prognostic markers because they are going to indicate the aggressiveness of the cancer,” Claudio said.
Giuseppe Russo, a research fellow at the Sbarro Institute, added that “using these two biomarkers together could be a more universal way to screen hepatocellular carcinoma because no matter what the tumor stage, they are going to be good prognosticators.”
The findings, will be published in the May 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, may eventually lead to the development of molecular diagnostic tests that could help oncologists or hepatologists predict tumor behavior.