Genetic tool possible key to improving liver cancer treatments
Shanghai scientists said genetic screening may unlock the mystery behind why some instances of liver cancer are drug resistant and help find new targets for medication.
The article titled "Exploring liver cancer biology through functional genetic screens" by scientists from the Shanghai Cancer Research Institute under Renji Hospital was published by leading journal Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, the hospital announced today, claiming the article offers new insights and theories on the bottleneck of liver cancer research and guides the development of new therapeutic strategies.
As the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world, liver cancer poses a major threat to human health. Globally, there are more than 840,000 new cases and 780,000 deaths every year, and about half of the new cases are in China.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer, affecting 85 to 90 percent of patients. For early-stage patients, surgery is an effective treatment. However, most patients are diagnosed in the middle or terminal stage, missing the best opportunity for surgery. The five-year survival rate is only 15 to 18 percent.
According to Qin Wenxin, a leading scientist in the research team, although a growing number of therapies have been approved for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma in the past few years, most of them only provide a limited survival benefit. Therefore, an urgent need exists to identify novel, targetable vulnerabilities and powerful drug combinations that improve treatments and survival rates.
He said the advent of functional genetic screening has contributed to the advance of liver cancer biology, uncovering many novel genes involved in tumorigenesis and cancer progression in a high-throughput manner.
An unbiased screening platform also provides an efficient tool for the exploration of the mechanisms involved in therapy resistance, as well as identifying potential targets for therapy, he said.
Through comparing with different functional screening platforms, scientists said the CRISPR-Cas9 technology has a bigger potential for the exploration of the mechanisms involved in therapy resistance, as well as identifying potential targets for therapy.