RICHMOND, Va. (Feb. 17, 2009) Virginia Commonwealth University researchers have identified a gene that plays a key role in regulating liver cancer progression, a discovery that could one day lead to new targeted therapeutic strategies to fight the highly aggressive disease.
Hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC, or liver cancer, is the fifth most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world. Treatment options for HCC include chemotherapy, chemoembolization, ablation and proton-beam therapy. Liver transplantation offers the best chance for a cure in patients with small tumors and significant associated liver disease.
In the study, published online in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers reported that the astrocyte elevated gene-1, AEG-1, plays a key role in regulating HCC in series of cellular models. By examining human liver tumor cells of patients with HCC, the team found that the expression of AEG-1 gradually increases as the tumor becomes more and more aggressive. Using microarray technology, they analyzed cDNA from the tumor cells and determined that AEG-1 modulates expression of genes relevant to the progression of HCC, including invasion, metastasis, resistance to chemotherapy, the formation of new blood vessels, and senescence. cDNAs are complementary DNAs that are generated from mRNAs to analyze gene expression profiles.
"AEG-1 also activates multiple intracellular signaling pathways that are known to be involved in HCC progression. So, strategies to inhibit AEG-1 that could lead to the shutdown of these pathways, either by small molecules or by siRNAs, might be an important therapeutic modality for HCC patients," said principal investigator Devanand Sarkar, Ph.D., MBBS, assistant professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics in the VCU School of Medicine, and Harrison Endowed Scholar in Cancer Research at the VCU Massey Cancer Center.
|Contact: Sathya Achia Abraham|
Virginia Commonwealth University