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Jorge A. Marrero, M.D.

Research Areas

Dr. Marrero's research interest involves strategies for the early detection, identification of risk factors and novel therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HCC is the tumor with the largest increase in incidence over the last 10 years and it is projected to continue to increase. The rise in the incidence of this tumor is attributed to the hepatitis C epidemic. Most of the patients are diagnosed at advanced stages, so strategies for the early detection of this tumor are important.

Liver and its adjacent organs
The arrow illustrates a mass in the liver that on biopsy is consistent with a hepatocellular carcinoma

To this end, Dr. Marrero is an associate member of the National Cancer Institute's Early Detection Research Network (EDRN). This group has the infrastructure and expertise in the discovery and validation of novel biomarkers for various solid tumors. Dr. Marrero and colleagues have tested a protein named des-gamma carboxyprothrombin, which has been shown to be elevated in these patients. A cross-sectional study has found that this marker has a better sensitivity and specificity than the clinically available tumor marker alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). Another biomarker that Dr. Marrero has studied with colleagues from Thomas Jefferson University is Golgi Protein 73, which also appears to have a better sensitivity and specificity than AFP. In addition, Dr. Marrero and colleagues have shown that protein profiling using SELDI-TOF technology can differentiate patients with HCC from those without cancer. Dr. Marrero has competed successfully for an NIH grant for the validation of the above mentioned markers.

Even though chronic liver disease is a risk factor for developing HCC, this tumor will not develop in all patients with liver disease. So, Dr. Marrero is also interested in the identification of risk factors important for the development of this tumor. In a recent cross-sectional study, Dr. Marrero showed that lifelong alcohol and tobacco exposure as well as obesity increases the risk for developing HCC. Interestingly, these factors interacted synergistically to increase the risk of HCC in patients with chronic liver disease. These data may help stratify those at the highest risk for HCC in order to provide screening.

Another research interest of Dr. Marrero is the study of novel therapeutic agents for HCC. He has completed a clinical trial for the treatment of HCC using the novel agent tetrathiomolybdate, which by causing copper depletion inhibited the process of angiogenesis in 11 patients with advanced HCC. Responses to the treatment have been observed already. Dr. Marrero and colleagues have also developed a new model to assess tumor vascularity by MRI to quantify the angiogenic process in these patients. They are entering the latter stages of this study now and are awaiting the final results. This study is quite exciting because besides liver transplantation there are no other therapies that have been shown to improve survival, and it is hoped that by inhibiting the process of angiogenesis we will be offering an option that will improve survival in these patients.

Study Projects
  • Dr. Marrero is conducting an NIH-funded trial for the validation of novel tumor markers. We are enrolling patients with cirrhosis of the liver without HCC and patients with early stage HCC. This study will help us determine if novel tumor markers are better than AFP for the detection of early stage HCC.
  • Dr. Marrero is conducting an NIH trial to observe the incidence of HCC. Patients with cirrhosis and no tumor are enrolled and followed prospectively over a 5-year period to determine the number of patients that developed HCC. We are collecting serum for the future validation of novel biomarkers.
Publications

Please click here for a list of publications by Dr. Marrero.

Honors/Awards
  • Janssen Scholar Fellow
  • Alpha Omega Alpha
  • ADHF Fellow/Faculty Transition Award
  • AASLD Advanced Hepatology Fellow Award
  • AGA Clinical Research Career Development Award
  • ACG Junior Faculty Career Development Award
  • UIC Digestive and Liver Disease Research Award
  • Research Excellence in Gastroenterology and Liver (REGAL) Award
 
   
   

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