Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research at the Medical University of Vienna (Austria) have successfully identified the AXL receptor as the key factor responsible for the development and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), one of the most common forms of liver cancer. Recently published in Hepatology, this finding has potential implications for targeted therapeutic approaches in the future.
While investigating the role of the AXL receptor in HCC, the researchers demonstrated that its expression and activation led to the alteration of signaling pathways, enabling both migration and metastasis of liver cancer cells.
Consequently, after binding a 14-3-3 adapter protein, AXL is able to affect the TGF-β signaling pathway, resulting in invasion and metastasis of HCC cells. These experimental results were supported by patient sample analyses, where both overexpression of AXL and the activation of TGF-β are associated with greatly reduced life expectancy.
These results highlight new possibilities for the development of treatments for HCC, most notably through the use of highly specific AXL inhibitors. The team hope to gain permission for the first clinical testing phase in HCC patients, where they postulate that such an inhibitor could have a positive impact on preventing the progression of this cancer.