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Semin Liver Dis. 1992 Aug;12(3):265-78.

Cellular and molecular mechanisms of hepatocarcinogenesis.

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Marion Bessin Liver Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.


For colorectal carcinomas, the rate of tumor development is proportional to the fourth to sixth power of elapsed time, suggesting that four to six independent events are necessary. Although similar calculations have not been made for HBV-associated HCCs, it is likely that this is also the case for HCCs, since individuals with persistent HBV infection do not usually develop HCC until they are 45 or greater years old. As evidence for specific genetic and epigenetic changes in HCCs accumulate, the important players in multistep hepatocarcinogenesis are becoming clearer. However, even though Myc family oncogenes are clearly implicated in woodchuck HCC, similar integrations have not been found in human HCCs. Therefore, although rodent and human systems have many similarities, we must realize that important differences may also exist. Regarding tumor suppressor genes, the evidence for p53 alterations in HCC is strong. A growing body of evidence suggests further that alterations in the retinoblastoma gene and one or more tumor suppressor genes on chromosome 11 are also involved in HCC. HBV integrations may certainly play a role in the generation of chromosome aberrations leading to loss of tumor suppressor alleles, since chromosomes 11 and 17 are the most common integration sites. Finally, the role of X proteins as participants in malignant transformation has been demonstrated for certain immortalized, nontransformed hepatocytes. Altered autocrine mechanisms of cell growth control, possibly involving IGF-II, are clearly implicated in HCC. Paracrine mechanisms for the control of hepatocyte growth and differentiated functions may also be altered as a result of the synthesis and secretion of a complex array of interleukins, HGF, and basic and acidic FGFs by cells in the inflammatory and cirrhotic lesions of precancerous livers. Whether the order of molecular changes in the hepatocyte is important for malignant progression is presently not clear. What is clear, however, is that hepatocarcinogenesis involves alterations in the concerted action of protooncogenes, growth factor, and tumor suppressor genes. How these factors interact will provide a more complete understanding of the mechanism or mechanisms of hepatic oncogenesis.

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