Discovery and diagnostic value of a novel oncofetal protein: Glypican 3

Sean K. Wang, Debra L. Zynger, Ondrej Hes, Ximing J Yang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Glypican 3 is a membrane-bound heparan sulfate proteoglycan, which has recently been identified as a marker for liver cancer and germ cell malignancies. Individuals with loss-offunction mutations for the glypican 3 gene exhibit Simpson-Golabi-Behmel syndrome, a rare X-linked overgrowth disorder. Expression of glypican 3 mRNA and protein is normally silenced in most adult organs and may reappear during malignant transformation. In the past few years, immunohistochemical and molecular characteristics of glypican 3 in hepatocellular carcinoma have been elucidated. More recently, glypican 3 has been emerging as a new diagnostic marker for germ cell tumors and especially testicular and ovarian yolk sac tumors. However, in other tumors such as renal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanomas, studies disagree on the level of glypican 3 expression. Finally, there is the controversial notion of glypican 3 as a tumor suppressor gene. In this review article, we update current knowledge on glypican 3 expression in normal and neoplastic tissues, evaluate its utility as a tumor marker in clinical practice, and explore its role as a novel oncofetal protein with clinical implications. Our focus is on the diagnostic value of glypican 3 in germ cell tumors and other neoplasms in addition to hepatocellular carcinoma. In conclusion, glypican 3 has been proven to be a useful immunohistochemical marker in distinguishing yolk sac tumors,choriocarcinomas, and Wilms tumors from other malignancies histologically mimicking these primitive tumors. Clinically, we recommend that glypican 3 be used as part of a panel of markers in subtyping testicular germ cell tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-460
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Anatomic Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Oncofetal protein
  • Testicular cancer
  • Yolk sac tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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