A recently-discovered genomic signature for predicting acute rejection in liver transplant recipients will be detailed tomorrow at the American Transplant Congress in Chicago. (Source: © Sebastian Kaulitzki/Fotolia)

A study in mice by scientists from the German Cancer Research Center and Hebrew University in Jerusalem reveals a new driver of liver cancer.

The findings are published in the Journal of Hepatology.

The team of researchers conducted their studies in mice that were genetically modified to develop chronic liver inflammation and hepatocellular carcinoma at an older age, and later also developed cHCC-CCA. The molecular profile of the cHCC-CCA tumor cells in these animals largely matched that of human cHCC-CCA cells.

The researchers observed that cHCC-CCA develops from degenerate liver cell precursors.

Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center and Hebrew University in Jerusalem identified in mice that the pro-inflammatory immune messenger interleukin 6 (IL-6), was found to be the driver of carcinogenesis.

Blocking of IL-6 action by specific antibodies reduced both the number and size of cHCC-CCA tumors in the mice.

Today, the most effective therapy for cHCC-CCA is surgical removal of the tumors, however, it is only successful if the cancer is detected at a very early stage. “Blocking of IL-6 or agents that kill senescent IL-6-producing cells could now be further tested as promising treatment approaches against this type of cancer,” explained Mathias Heikenwälder, PhD, group leader and professor, German Cancer Research Center, and one of the corresponding authors of the current publication. He added: “There is now growing evidence that tumors actually diagnosed as hepatocellular carcinoma also partially contain cells of a cHCC-CCA. This means that potential therapeutic approaches against cHCC-CCA could also benefit some patients with hepatocellular cancer.”

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