Stamping Out Liver Cancer With Inhibitor Drugs

A team of scientists in Singapore has identified a vulnerable pathway in stem-like liver cancer cells which can be targeted to inhibit tumor formation.

AsianScientist (Dec. 11, 2019) – Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have found that a class of small molecule drugs inhibiting the JAK/STAT signaling pathway in liver cancer cells could be useful for treating hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Their findings are published in the Journal of Hepatology.

The most common liver cancer in adults is known as HCC and accounts for approximately 780,000 deaths every year. Even with advanced surgical treatments or transplantation, the five-year survival rate for HCC patients remains poor due to frequent recurrence.

Seeking to widen the number of available treatment options for HCC patients, researchers led by Associate Professor Edward Chow at NUS explored drugs that target JAK/STAT signaling. The JAK/STAT pathway involves proteins that regulate a range of cellular functions, including immune responses and cellular development.

Chow and colleagues noted that JAK/STAT signaling is active in a subset of cancer cells that had stem-like properties, which means that they can self-renew and give rise to more cancer cells. When the researchers applied drugs to inhibit the JAK/STAT pathway in stem-like liver cancer cells, they observed that the tumor forming ability of those cancer cells in mice was reduced by 50 percent.

These findings provide increased support that JAK/STAT-based therapies targeting cancer stem-like cells are important for more effective treatment outcomes against liver cancer.

“The immediate next step is to validate this concept in our collection of clinically relevant patient-derived tumor xenografts and organoids,” said Chow.

The article can be found at: Toh et al. (2019) Targeting Jak/Stat Pathway as a Therapeutic Strategy Against SP/CD44+ Tumorigenic Cells in Akt/β-catenin-driven Hepatocellular Carcinoma.


Source: National University of Singapore.
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