Expression of epithelial cellular adhesion molecule (Ep-CAM) in chronic (necro-)inflammatory liver diseases and hepatocellular carcinoma

Hepatol Res. 2006 Jan;34(1):50-6. doi: 10.1016/j.hepres.2005.10.006. Epub 2005 Dec 20.


Epithelial cell adhesion molecule (Ep-CAM) is expressed in a several epithelial tissues and carcinomas, but not on mature hepatocytes. Here, we analysed the expression of Ep-CAM in 230 patients suffering from various liver diseases like chronic hepatitis B and C (HBV and HCV infection), chronic autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), chronic alcoholic liver disease (ALD), primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), hereditary hemochromatosis and dysplastic nodules (DNs) as well as hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) and cholangiocellular carcinomas (CCCs) by immunohistochemistry. De novo hepatocellular Ep-CAM expression was found in 75.9% of ALD (22/29), 63.6% of HCV (21/33) and 55.6% of each AIH and HBV cases (5/9 and 15/27, respectively). Lower Ep-CAM expression levels were observed for primary sclerosing liver diseases (PBC and PSC) with 25% (3/12) and 7.7% (1/13) of cases. Moreover, only 14.3% of HCCs (9/63) manifested expression, while all CCCs showed strong Ep-CAM expression (5/5). For DNs and hereditary hemochromatosis, Ep-CAM expression was found in 10 and 50% (3/30 and 2/4), respectively. In HBV and HCV, Ep-CAM expression correlated significantly with inflammatory activity as assessed by histological parameters and to the extent of fibrosis. In addition, for HCV also transaminase levels correlated significantly with Ep-CAM expression. Our results indicate that de novo Ep-CAM expression in hepatocytes is frequent in inflammatory liver diseases and is potentially linked to regenerative activity. CCCs and Ep-CAM positive HCCs may represent an attractive target group for Ep-CAM-directed immunotherapies, yet unwanted toxicity may limit the use of such strategies due to Ep-CAM expression in biliary epithelium and several chronic liver diseases such as HBV-and HCV-hepatitis.