(dailyRx News) Like so many cancers, inflammation plays a part in liver cancer getting started, growing and spreading. Going after the source of this inflammation may be a new way to attack this particularly ugly cancer.
Researchers have identified a gene that messes up the process of inflammation that’s involved in liver cancer.
The study could lead to new drugs that target the gene called TREM-1. But research studies based on mice do not produce new medicines for humans for many years.
Investigators at the Georgia Health Sciences University Cancer Center conducted the research led by GSUCC immunologist, Anatolij Horuzsko, PhD.
“We have long suspected that chronic inflammation is a very powerful tool in the initiation of cancer, and also in the progression or metastasis of cancer," said Dr. Horuzsko.
After looking at what controls inflammation, Dr. Horuzsko said, “One important triggering receptor for inflammation is TREM-1."
Scientists have known that TREM-1 is helpful in fighting off viral and bacterial infections. But when the liver has been damaged from alcohol abuse, for example, the team found that TREM-1 went into overdrive.
Ongoing (chronic) inflammation follows and creates a cascading effect that can lead to liver cancer.
In this 14-month animal study, two sets of mice were exposed to a cancer-causing agent known as diethylnitrosamine, or DEN. This substance is found in tobacco smoke and other chemicals.
One group of the mice had no TREM-1 gene, and the control group was normal.
The control mice started having liver cell damage within 48 hours of having received the DEN. After eight months, these animals had large liver tumors.
The mice with no TREM-1 were not phased. They stayed healthy despite being exposed to DEN.
“TREM-1 could be a target for any inflammation-associated cancer," said Dr. Horuzsko in a press release. "In the future, we could use a drug to target TREM-1 in the body. We are already working in this direction."
Researchers also found another potential target for drugs to treat liver cancer. This one is called HMGB1.
This study was published in Cancer Research, a journal for the American Association for Cancer Research.
Financial information was not publicly available.