Breath of Fresh Air in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Research

According to, Hepatocellular carcinoma is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world. It is also the most common form of liver cancer. New research from a Japanese team at Kanazawa University, however, reveals new details about the process by which hepatocellular carcinoma cells metastasize in the lungs. Keep reading to learn more, or follow the original story here for more details.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is a rare form of cancer which originates in the liver. Despite being relatively uncommon, hepatocellular carcinoma is still the most common form of primary liver cancer. No exact cause of hepatocellular carcinoma has yet been identified. Known risk factors, however, include hepatitis B or C, heavy consumption of alcohol, diabetes, and obesity. Click here to learn more about hepatocellular carcinoma.
When hepatocellular carcinoma spreads to the lungs, the average life span of a patient shortens to about six months.

These lung metastases occur when cancerous cells present in the liver enter the bloodstream. Thanks to a new mouse model being studied by the team at Kanazawa University, the mechanism behind this process may finally be understood. The full details of the study have been published in the Journal of Immunology.

To begin, the Kanazawa team developed a model of hepatocellular carcinoma in a mouse population. This was accomplished by introducing hepatocellular carcinoma cells to mice via injection. The mice began to show signs of metastatic lung nodules. These growths were analogous to the metastases that occur in human hepatocellular carcinoma patients.

While observing this process, the team noticed an increase in two types of macrophages in the lungs of the mice.

One of these types of macrophages was already known to play some role in the development of lung metastases. They result from the movement of blood and cancer cells in circulation. The other group of macrophages comes from the alveoli in the lungs. It is unclear exactly what their role is in the formation of tumors, but the Kanazawa study is the first to observe them in this manner. Their interaction is one of the major findings of the study.

According to results from the Kanazawa study, one type of macrophage releases a molecule which in some way attracts the other macrophage. This is significant because the attracted macrophage is responsible for producing an inflammatory compound that activates the immune cells and assists in the development of additional tumors.

Discovering how these types of cells interact may be the key to developing new forms of treatment.

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