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Glypican 3 expression in human normal and neoplastic tissue: a tissue microarray analysis on 4338 tissue samples

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Glypican 3 (GPC3) belongs to the glypican family of GPI anchored heparan sulfate proteoglycans, which play a crucial role in cellular growth, cell migration and cell differentiation. Several studies have shown GPC3 to be a highly specific marker for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and for differentiating non- and pre-neoplastic liver disease. To systematically investigate the epidemiology of GPC3 expression in non-neoplastic, pre-neoplastic and neoplastic tissues, we used tissue microarray (TMA) technology to analyze the immunohistochemically detectable expression of GPC3 in 3,678 tissue samples from 132 different tumor categories and 31 non-neoplastic and pre-neoplastic tissue types.

Furthermore, GPC3 expression was investigated in an additional TMA containing 405 non-neoplastic, pre-neoplastic and neoplastic liver samples.


GPC3 expression was found in 23% of non-neoplastic (liver cirrhosis), in 37% of pre-neoplastic (low- and high-grade dysplastic nodules) and in 64% of neoplastic liver disease. Furthermore, testicular non-seminomatous germ cell tumors (55%), squamous cell carcinoma of the lung (54%), liposarcoma (52%), cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) III (41%), melanoma (29%) and schwannoma (26%) also revealed consistent expression of GPC3.


This study provides a comprehensive overview on the expression of GPC3 in normal and cancerous tissue. Among neoplastic tissue, our data underline the role of GPC3 in hepatocellular carcinogenesis and suggest a potential role of GPC3 as a therapeutic target in these tumors. Moreover, several non-hepatic tumors can also show GPC3 positivity.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Baumhoer, D., Terracciano, L., Stadlmann, S. et al. Glypican 3 expression in human normal and neoplastic tissue: a tissue microarray analysis on 4338 tissue samples. Diagn Pathol 2 (Suppl 1), S5 (2007).

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