Gene therapy induces liver cancer in research animals

A subclass of liver cancers, meaning about 5 percent of cancers, could be initiated by oncogenic microRNA. A study published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that liver cancer is induced when overexpressing these microRNAs in an animal model. The work is a collaboration between the IDIBAPS - Hospital Clínic of Barcelona team led by Dr. Josep Maria Llovet, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the University of Washington in Seattle (United States).

The team led by Dr. Josep Maria Llovet, ICREA Research Professor at IDIBAPS, established in Gastroenterology a classification of hepatocellular carcinoma based on microRNA. This study served as a reference for adenovirus gene therapy published in PNAS that induced liver cancer in animals. The insertion of adenovirus was performed in the area described in humans.

In oncology, many molecular alterations affect few patients but are very relevant. This may allow the development of highly selective treatments. In the case of liver cancer investigtors observed microRNAs in the genome that are normally silenced in adults and active only in the placenta. This could be due to epigenetic alterations which hipomethylate the promoter regulating them. The problem is that the leap to clinical practice could be very complex, since drugs that regulate methylation are not selective, hipomethylating or hipermethylating the whole genome.

Information via: Diario Médico