An Indian-origin researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, US, has announced the identification of a gene that is found in high levels in tumour samples from patients with Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)-a highly aggressive form of liver cancer-and generates a protein important for the progression of the disease.
Devanand Sarkar and his colleagues say that targeting the gene AEG1, or the protein it generates, may provide a new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of HCC.
The researchers have revealed that human liver cells were found to express only low levels of the protein AEG1 in a study, while human HCC tumour samples expressed very high levels.
According to them, that was associated with an increase in the number of copies of the AEG1 gene in human HCC tumour samples.
Sarkar said that human liver cell lines engineered to over-express AEG1 grew faster than non-engineered cells, and developed into highly aggressive tumours when transplanted into mice.
He added that knocking down the levels of AEG1 in human HCC cell lines, after they had been allowed to form a tumour in mice, limited further growth.
Further analysis revealed that the effects of AEG1 were mediated, in part, via its ability to activate the Wnt signaling pathway.