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Signaling Networks Controlling HCC Onset and Progression: Influence of Microenvironment and Implications for Cancer Gene Therapy

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DOI: 10.4236/jct.2013.42A042    3,113 Downloads   5,221 Views  


Hepatocarcinogenesis, as other epithelial malignancies, has been proved to be a multistep process that, starting from mutagenic events, allows the transformed liver cell to evolve towards a more aggressive phenotype, characterized by the acquisition of migratory/invasive and stem-cell-like properties. Hepatocellular carcinoma(HCC)can originate from both mature hepatocytes and liver precursor/stem cells. Whatever its origin, a common feature of advanced-stage HCC is the reduction or lack of expression of master genes of epithelial/hepatocyte differentiation, i.e. members of the liver enriched transcription factors(LEFTs)family like HNF4α, and conversely an increased expression of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition(EMT)master genes, i.e. the transcriptional repressors belonging to the Snail family. Recently, it has emerged as members of these families are capable to directly repress each other and to regulate in opposite manner target genes involved in stemness and in hepatocyte differentiation, thus influencing cell outcome between epithelial/differentiated/poor aggressive and mesenchymal/undifferentiated/aggressive phenotype. Consequently, the restoration of LEFT functions in invasive HCC could represent an important goal for anti-cancer therapies. However, any strategy based on gene transfer needs to take in account the influence of micro-environmental factors in HCC tumor niche, like TGFb, responsible for shifting the described balance in tumor cell towards the acquisition of stem-cell like properties and invasiveness, through Snail/EMT induction and LEFTs downregulation. The presence of this cytokine, indeed, was shown to override both anti-EMT and tumor suppressor activity of the ectopically expressed HNF4α protein. In this review, the rationale to propose implementation of HCC gene therapy will be discussed.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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A. Marchetti, C. Cicchini, L. Santangelo, A. Cozzolino, V. Costa, M. Tripodi and L. Amicone, "Signaling Networks Controlling HCC Onset and Progression: Influence of Microenvironment and Implications for Cancer Gene Therapy," Journal of Cancer Therapy, Vol. 4 No. 2A, 2013, pp. 353-358. doi: 10.4236/jct.2013.42A042.


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