Doctoral fellow - Department of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics - Liver Research Center Ghent (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, UGent)
Principal investigator: prof. Xavier Verhelst (MD, PhD)
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third most common cancer-related cause of death worldwide with increasing incidence rates in previously low-risk countries (such as Europe and Northern America), potentially as a result of the rising prevalence of diabetes and excessive body weight. By diagnosing patients at an early stage of the disease, one can increase the applicability of curative therapeutic options and decrease disease-related mortality. Liver transplantation (LT) is recommended as the first-line treatment option for HCC patients meeting the Milan criteria without qualifying for resection. These Milan criteria are used to keep the risk of recurrence after LT as low as possible. Nevertheless, 15% of the HCC patients still show tumour recurrence after LT. Therefore, there is a clinical unmet need for biomarkers with the potential of individual risk stratification for HCC recurrence after LT. Serum glycomics, or the evaluation of glycoprotein-specific glycan characteristics in serum, appear to be a promising approach because the majority of N-glycans present in total serum are bound to proteins made by the liver. Thus, protein glycomic alterations in serum might reflect a disruption of liver function and could potentially be used as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in HCC patients undergoing LT. Therefore, the adoption of personalised medicine in this area, based on potent biomarkers accounting for the biological activity of the tumour, could significantly alter clinical practice.