Mouse model connects specific gene to liver cancer advance

In a bid to dig deeper in the battle against liver cancer, scientists in Virginia have developed the first mouse model that shows some of the things a specific gene appears to be responsible for in advancing the deadly disease.

The work of researchers from various departments within Virginia Commonwealth University focused on Astrocyte elevated gene-1 (AEG-1), and its role in the progression of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer. And it turns out that AEG-1 appears to cause fatty liver, or steatosis, which can accelerate the cancer's advance. Additionally, the gene also seems to protect liver cancer cells from chemotherapy treatments and also affect how new blood vessels form inside the tumor. In short, AEG-1, when overexpressed, is the equivalent of lighting a match in a gas tank, fueling a more rapid advance of liver cancer.

The work by lead researcher Devanand Sarkar and others comes after years of work looking at how AEG-1 affects the development of cancer, according to VCU's announcement. And to come up with a model that draws strong connections between AEG-1 and liver cancer offers promise for future research. Others can build on their work to better understand all of the pieces that lead to liver cancer's advance. It also gives scientists some targets and potential new approaches for future drug treatments.

It may be some time, however, before researchers can get to that point. In the interim, the team will study their model further, according to VCU, looking at how AEG-1 affects fat metabolism and diseases related to obesity. 

For more study details, check out the journal Hepatology.

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