Des-γ-carboxyprothrombin (DCP) is known as a tumour marker for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Various tumour markers have been developed for serological diagnosis of cancers, including HCC, in order to increase the survival rate of cancer patients. The currently recommended combined testing of DCP and α-fetoprotein (AFP) or Lens culinaris agglutinin-reactive fraction of α-fetoprotein has been established to diagnose HCC. This combined testing using several tumour markers helps to increase the sensitivity of diagnosis of HCC, thus significantly increasing the clinical usefulness of DCP. The excessive production of DCP may be related to worse tumour behaviour, such as the presence of vascular invasion and intrahepatic metastasis of HCC cells. A high level of DCP was suggested to be useful as one of the factors in new recipient selection criteria of liver transplantation. The clinical use of DCP, therefore, might play a vital role in predicting tumour behaviour in patients with HCC. That said, the basic mechanism of DCP production has not been fully clarified. Various factors such as vitamin K(2) and γ-glutamyl carboxylase may contribute to the production of DCP and have a complex relationship. Moreover, recent studies have revealed that DCP functions as a growth factor and might play significant roles in cancer progression. Thus, DCP represents a potential target of drug discovery to establish new chemotherapeutic strategy for HCC. However, various issues have to be resolved to construct a novel therapy for HCC-targeting DCP. Innovation is required to make further progress in examining DCP.
© 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.