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Am J Pathol. 1999 Dec;155(6):1795-801.

Beta-catenin mutations are frequent in human hepatocellular carcinomas associated with hepatitis C virus infection.

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  • 1Unit of Molecular Pathology, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Lyon, France.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common fatal cancers worldwide. Hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infections, exposure to aflatoxin, and excessive intake of alcohol have been identified as major risk factors. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying their development are still poorly understood. Recently, beta-catenin, one of the key components of the Wnt signaling pathway, has been found to be mutated in about 20% of HCCs, suggesting a role of the Wnt pathway in their development. In this study, we examined beta-catenin and APC mutations in 22 HCCs associated with HCV infection, using single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) followed by direct DNA sequencing. beta-Catenin mutations were found in nine (41%) cases, but no APC mutations were found. beta-Catenin immunohistochemistry revealed nuclear accumulation of beta-catenin protein in all nine tumors with a beta-catenin mutation and two additional tumors without a mutation. These results suggest that activation of the Wnt signaling pathway by beta-catenin mutation contributes significantly to the hepatocellular carcinogenesis associated with HCV infection.

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