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Targeting cancer stem cells in hepatocellular carcinoma

Authors He AR, Smith D, Mishra L

Received 26 February 2014

Accepted for publication 25 June 2014

Published 17 December 2014 Volume 2015:5 Pages 1—10

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/GICTT.S44250

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4


Aiwu Ruth He,1 Daniel C Smith,1 Lopa Mishra2

1Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, 2Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

Abstract: The poor outcome of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is attributed to recurrence of the disease after curative treatment and the resistance of HCC cells to conventional chemotherapy, which may be explained partly by the function of liver cancer stem cells (CSCs). Liver CSCs have emerged as an important therapeutic target against HCC. Numerous surface markers for liver CSCs have been identified, and include CD133, CD90, CD44, CD13, and epithelial cell adhesion molecules. These surface markers serve not only as tools for identifying and isolating liver CSCs but also as therapeutic targets for eradicating these cells. In studies of animal models and large-scale genomic analyses of human HCC samples, many signaling pathways observed in normal stem cells have been found to be altered in liver CSCs, which accounts for the stemness and aggressive behavior of these cells. Antibodies and small molecule inhibitors targeting the signaling pathways have been evaluated at different levels of preclinical and clinical development. Another strategy is to promote the differentiation of liver CSCs to less aggressive HCC that is sensitive to conventional chemotherapy. Disruption of the tumor niche essential for liver CSC homeostasis has become a novel strategy in cancer treatment. To overcome the challenges in developing treatment for liver CSCs, more research into the genetic makeup of patient tumors that respond to treatment may lead to more effective therapy. Standardization of HCC CSC tumor markers would be helpful for measuring the CSC response to these agents. Herein, we review the current strategies for developing treatment to eradicate liver CSCs and to improve the outcome for patients with HCC.

Keywords: cancer stem cell, therapeutic targets, surface maker, signaling pathways, transforming growth factor beta

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