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Oncology. 2002;62 Suppl 1:29-37.

Molecular mechanism of viral hepatocarcinogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Japan. kkoike-tky@umin.ac.jp


Overwhelming lines of epidemiological evidence have indicated that chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major risk for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In the pathogenesis of HCC associated with HBV or HCV, it remains controversial whether these hepatitis viruses play a direct role or merely an indirect role. By virtue of transgenic mice established by us, it has become evident that the product of the HBV X gene (HBx protein) and the core protein of HCV have an oncogenic potential, although the pathways through which these two viral proteins operate may differ. The findings in our studies indicate that HBV and HCV are directly involved in hepatocarcinogenesis, albeit other factors such as continued cell death and regeneration associated with chronic hepatitis may play a role as well. Combined, our results suggest that there might be a mechanism in the development of HCC in persistent infection with hepatitis viruses that is distinct from that in other cancers. Similarly to the pathogenesis of other malignancies represented by colorectal cancer, the accumulation of a set of genetic aberrations may also be necessary for a multistage development of HCC. However, HBx protein and HCV core protein, to which an oncogenic potential is attributed, may allow some of the multiple stages skipped in hepatocarcinogenesis. Unlike for the other cancers, therefore, infection with HBV or HCV may be capable of inducing HCC in the absence of a complete set of genetic aberrations. Such a scenario would explain an unusually high incidence and multicentric nature of HCC developing in chronic hepatitis B or C.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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