Stimulation of tumor-cell growth by alpha-fetoprotein

Int J Cancer. 1998 Feb 9;75(4):596-9. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0215(19980209)75:4<596::aid-ijc17>;2-7.


It has been recognized that alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), as an oncofetal antigen, is re-expressed in large amounts in adult tumor cells and serves clinically useful purposes in tumor-marker assays. However, its biological activities are still undefined. In the present study, the ability of AFP to stimulate tumor-cell growth was observed by an in vitro experimental system. Mouse ascites cancer cells derived from hepatoma-22(H-22) or Ehrlich ascites carcinoma(EAC) were extracted intraperitoneally and cultured in RPMI 1640 medium containing 10% newborn calf serum for 48 hr. Cell growth was quantitated by a colorimetric assay using a MTT microculture tetrazolium dye. The results demonstrated that AFP significantly increased H-22-cell proliferation, with stimulation per cents of 122 to 156%. A similar growth-promoting effect of AFP was observed using EAC cells, with stimulation per cents of 86 to 210%. Moreover, the growth-stimulatory activity of AFP could be abrogated with anti-AFP antibodies. In addition, 5-fluorouracil could obviously inhibit AFP-induced proliferation of H-22 or EAC cells in vitro. These results suggest that AFP is associated with tumor-cell growth and may serve as an important target of tumor therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascites
  • Carcinoma, Ehrlich Tumor
  • Cell Division / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / pathology*
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / pharmacology*


  • alpha-Fetoproteins
  • Fluorouracil