Metastatic tumor antigen in hepatocellular carcinoma: golden roads toward personalized medicine
. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a prototype of hypervascular tumors, is one of the most common malignancies in the world, especially hyperendemic in the Far East where chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is highly prevalent. It is characterized by the clinical feature of a poor prognosis or a high mortality due to its already far advanced stages at diagnosis. It is so multifactorial that hepatocarcinogenesis cannot be explained by a single molecular mechanism. To date, a number of pathways have been known to contribute to the development, growth, angiogenesis, and even metastasis of HCC. Among the various factors, metastatic tumor antigens (MTAs) or metastasis-associated proteins have been vigorously investigated as an intriguing target in the field of hepatocarcinogenesis. According to recent studies including ours, MTAs are not only involved in the HCC development and growth (molecular carcinogenesis), but also closely associated with the post-operative recurrence and a poor prognosis or a worse response to post-operative anti-cancer therapy (clinical significance). Herein, we review MTAs in light of their essential structure, functions, and molecular mechanism in hepatocarcinogenesis. We will also focus in detail on the interaction between hepatitis B x protein (HBx) of HBV and MTA in order to clarify the HBV-associated HCC development. Finally, we will discuss the prognostic significance and clinical application of MTA in HCC. We believe that this review will help clinicians to understand the meaning and use of the detection of MTA in order to more effectively manage their HCC patients.