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Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis-related hepatocellular carcinoma: is there a role for the androgen receptor pathway?

Authors Ali MA, Lacin S, Abdel-Wahab R, Uemura M, Hassan M, Rashid A, Duda DG, Kaseb AO

Received 29 April 2016

Accepted for publication 9 August 2016

Published 3 March 2017 Volume 2017:10 Pages 1403—1412

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/OTT.S111681

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Manfred Beleut

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Min Li

Mahmoud A Ali,1 Sahin Lacin,1 Reham Abdel-Wahab,1,2 Mark Uemura,1 Manal Hassan,1 Asif Rashid,3 Dan G Duda,4 Ahmed O Kaseb1

1Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA; 2Department of Clinical Oncology, Assiut University, Assiut, Egypt; 3Department of Pathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 4Department of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

Abstract: The epidemic of insulin resistance, obesity, and metabolic syndrome has led to the emergence of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) as the most common cause of liver disease in the US. Patients with NASH are at an increased risk for hepatic disease-related morbidity and death, and chronic inflammation in NASH patients can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The prevalence of HCC is higher in males than in females, and genetic studies have identified androgen and androgen receptors (ARs) as partially responsible for the gender disparity in the development of liver disease and HCC. Although many factors are known to play important roles in the progression of inflammation in NASH patients, the role of androgen and AR in the progression of NASH to HCC has been understudied. This review summarizes the evidence for a potential role of androgen and the AR pathway in the development of NASH-related HCC and in the treatment of HCC. It has been proposed that AR plays a role in the progression of HCC: inhibitory roles in early stages of hepatocarcinogenesis and tumor-promoting roles in advanced stages. AR can be activated by several pathways, even in the absence of androgen. While AR has been explored as a potential therapeutic target in HCC, several clinical trials have failed to demonstrate a clinical benefit of antiandrogen drugs in HCC. This review discusses the potential reason for these observations and discuss the potential future trials design in this important setting.

Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, androgen receptor, flutamide, sorafenib

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