Defining new targets in liver cancer金沙官网网址

The liver performs numerous vital functions including filtering the body’s blood supply and – as a key organ of the immune and circulatory systems – contains numerous immune cells that defend the body against blood-borne pathogens and aid in wound healing.1,2,3,4 In addition, the liver is regenerative, meaning it can replace damaged tissue by regrowing its existing tissue – up to two-thirds of its total size.5,6,7 The unique pathogen-clearing and wound-healing properties of the liver require that resident immune cells are often active and ready to protect the body from harm.3,4 As part of this ability to protect the body, liver immune cells are typically also able to detect cells that have become abnormal, attacking and removing them before they can divide and grow into dangerous tumours.3,8 This state of immune readiness is a critical way liver immune cells are able to rapidly respond to pathogens and injury.9金沙官网网址


Inflammation is a natural part of the immune system’s standard reaction to threats.9 Ordinarily, inflammation is acute, or short term, and ends once a pathogen is removed or an injury is healed.9 But there are cases when the inflammatory response persists.10 Liver damage from hepatitis virus infection or as a result of excessive and prolonged alcohol intake can lead to chronic inflammation that ultimately may interfere with the typical ability of liver immune cells to attack and remove abnormal cells.10,11 When immune cells are hampered in this way, we call it immunosuppression.12 Unfortunately, immunosuppression in the liver can last even after the damaging period.With immune cells less able to attack and remove abnormal cells, cells in the liver are more likely to grow into cancer.11 Removing immunosuppression and restoring the ability of immune cells to attack and remove abnormal cells may be a key way to manage cancers that arise in the liver. 11,13金沙官网网址


For decades, the number of liver cancer cases globally have continued to rise.14 Liver cancer is the the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide.15 However, due to poor outcomes, it is the third leading cause of cancer death.15 Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer, representing about 80% of all cases.16,17金沙官网网址


Between 80 and 90% of HCC cases develop as a result of cirrhosis, the most common of which is infection with hepatitis B or C viruses.17 These viruses are widespread and challenging to manage, particularly in many developing parts of the world, making reducing the global burden of HCC difficult.18,19 More than 72% of the world’s HCC cases are found in Asia where these viruses are endemic.20,21,22 China alone accounts for more than half of all newly diagnosed liver cancer cases and deaths, despite containing less than 20% of the world’s population.23金沙官网网址

Ongoing programs focused on prevention and screening of hepatitis are important to reduce the number of new HCC cases.17,18,19 However, there remains an urgent need for research that will provide more effective treatment options for patients with HCC than what is available today.24金沙官网网址


Screening for HCC is challenging.25 Most signs and symptoms appear when HCC is at an advanced stage, and early-stage tumours are often difficult to detect in a physical exam.25 As such, most patients are diagnosed at later stages of the disease when treatment options are limited.25金沙官网网址


Using heat or alcohol to destroy cancer cells – known as tumour ablation.26金沙官网网址

Replacing the liver with a donor liver – a treatment option limited by the availability of donors, long wait times, and the risks associated with transplantation.26金沙官网网址

Delivering chemotherapy directly to the cancer cells via an artery – known as transarterial chemoembolisation, or TACE.26金沙官网网址

Blocking cell pathways that lead to cancer cell growth – using targeted drug therapies such as multi-kinase inhibitors.26金沙官网网址

Implanting radioactive beads into the tumour to destroy cancer cells – known as transarterial radioembolisation, or TARE.27 金沙官网网址


Pioneering new research has deepened our understanding of the processes leading to the immunosuppression involved in liver cancer.13 Mounting evidence has shown that reversing immunosuppression may restore the ability of immune cells to attack and remove cancer cells, potentially slowing growth of or shrinking tumours.28 Treatment that reverses immunosuppression is called immunotherapy, and there are now multiple immunotherapies that may lead to anti-tumour activity.28,29金沙官网网址




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27.  Kim HC. Radioembolization for the Treatment of Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Clin Mol Hepatol. 2017;23(2):109‐114.

28.  Joshi S, et al. Combinatorial Approach to Improve Cancer Immunotherapy: Rational Drug Design Strategy to Simultaneously Hit Multiple Targets to Kill Tumor Cells and to Activate the Immune System. J Oncol. 2019;2019:5245034.

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Document ID: Z4-22319

Date of prep: May 2020