The unchecked activity of a cell signaling pathway crucial in embryonic development and the livers response to injury leads to liver cancer, researchers from Duke University Medical Center and John Hopkins University School of Medicine have found.
Because the pathway, called Hedgehog, is present only in immature, stem-like liver cells, the discovery offers hope for targeted treatment of liver cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer-related death in the world. Laboratory experiments show that blocking the Hedgehog pathway kills cancer cells but leaves mature healthy liver cells intact, the researchers report. Treating patients with medications to interrupt the pathway would likely eliminate the cancer cells while sparing healthy liver tissue, said Jason Sicklick, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Duke and lead author of the study.
"Currently, there are no good chemotherapies for liver cancer, and many people with advanced liver disease are too ill for surgery to remove tumors," Sicklick said. "There is a desperate need for effective anticancer treatments that are safe for patients with liver disease."
Becky Oskin | EurekAlert!
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