Team finds a potentially better way to treat liver cancer

October 12, 2017, University of Southern California
If mitophagy or Pac Man eats all the cell's mitochondria, then the 'seeds of cancer' will be able to grow unhindered and develop more malignant tumors. Credit: Keck School of Medicine of USC/Linya Wang

A Keck School of Medicine of USC research team has identified how cancer stem cells survive. This finding may one day lead to new therapies for liver cancer, one of the few cancers in the United States with an incidence rate that continues to balloon.

"Liver cancer is difficult to treat, and most patients who are diagnosed with it will die within a five-year period," said Jing-Hsiung James Ou, senior author of a new study and a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Keck School of Medicine. "My team has identified how liver cancer stem cells are maintained. Without these 'seeds of cancer,' would shrink and eventually disappear."

New cases went up 38 percent from 2003 to 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease's death rate increased by 56 percent to 23,000 deaths between 2012 and 2003.

The study, published in the journal Molecular Cell on Oct. 12, is an example of how Keck School of Medicine researchers are finding biomedical solutions that in the distant future could improve medical treatment for patients. Ou believes the target therapy his team identified could also be used for other types of cancers.

A way to sidestep disease resistance

Liver cancer is resistant to most chemotherapy drugs. Only three drugs have been effective in shrinking liver tumors, but tumors become resistant to the treatment quickly, according to the American Cancer Society.

Ou and his colleagues found that mitophagy, the removal of damaged mitochondria (the cell's energizer batteries), is a potential therapeutic target. Mitophagy can cause tumors to proliferate. That is because a powerful called p53 attaches itself to mitochondria. Removing mitochondria inadvertently removes the body's natural ability to keep tumors at bay.

If a lot of damaged "batteries" are removed, then the will also be removed: More cancer stem cells will be created, resulting in more . However, if this cell cleaning process is temporarily halted, then the number of cancer stem cells will diminish. Without these seeds of cancer, tumors will regress until they no longer exist, Ou said.

"Now that we understand the molecular process, we will be able to target this pathway to stop the production of cancer stem cells," Ou said. "If are gone, cancer is gone."

Explore further: Scientists root out the 'bad seeds' of liver cancer

Related Stories

Scientists root out the 'bad seeds' of liver cancer

January 6, 2016
Researchers have found the 'bad seeds' of liver cancer and believe they could one day reprogram them to remain responsive to cancer treatment, a new study has found.

Research discovers potential new Rx target for colon cancer

September 12, 2017
Genetic research conducted at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center demonstrated for the first time that a novel protein can cause normal cells in the lining of the colon to become malignant, ...

VCP protein inhibitor found to help virus kill liver tumors

August 24, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with members from several institutions in China has found that combining a VCP protein inhibitor with a virus that naturally targets liver cancer tumors made the virus much more potent. ...

Scrib protein identified as a natural suppressor of liver cancer

May 8, 2017
A protein that typically helps keep cells organized and on task becomes a tumor suppressor in the face of liver cancer, scientists say.

Number of cancer stem cells might not predict outcome in HPV-related oral cancers

January 22, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—New research from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) suggests that it may be the quality ...

Scientists find way to disrupt brain tumor stem cells

June 11, 2015
Some brain tumors are notoriously difficult to treat. Whether surgically removed, zapped by radiation or infiltrated by chemotherapy drugs, they find a way to return.

Recommended for you

Research shows possible new target for immunotherapy for solid tumors

April 24, 2018
Research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) reveals a potential new target to help T cells (white blood cells) infiltrate certain solid tumors.

Experimental arthritis drug prevents stem cell transplant complication

April 24, 2018
An investigational drug in clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis prevents a common, life-threatening side effect of stem cell transplants, new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows. ...

Scientists develop a new model for glioblastoma using gene-edited organoids

April 24, 2018
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an incredibly deadly brain cancer and presents a serious black box challenge. It's virtually impossible to observe how these tumors operate in their natural environment and animal models don't ...

Changes in breast tissue increase cancer risk for older women

April 24, 2018
Researchers in Norway, Switzerland, and the United States have identified age-related differences in breast tissue that contribute to older women's increased risk of developing breast cancer. The findings, published April ...

Targeting molecules called miR-200s and ADAR2 could prevent tumor metastasis in patients with colorectal cancer

April 24, 2018
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The main cause of death in patients with colorectal cancer is liver metastasis, with nearly 70% of patients ...

Removing the enablers: Reducing number of tumor-supporting cells to fight neuroblastoma

April 24, 2018
Investigators at the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Children's Hospital Los Angeles provide preclinical evidence that the presence of tumor-associated macrophages—a type of immune cell—can negatively ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.