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J Hepatol. 2007 May;46(5):840-8. Epub 2007 Jan 17.

Vascular remodeling and antitumoral effects of mTOR inhibition in a rat model of hepatocellular carcinoma.

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  • 1Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Berne, Murtenstrasse 35, CH-3010 Berne, Switzerland.

Erratum in

  • J Hepatol. 2008 Apr;48(4):684.



Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is amenable to only few treatments. Inhibitors of the kinase mTOR are a new class of immunosuppressors already in use after liver transplantation. Their antiproliferative and antiangiogenic properties suggest that these drugs could be considered to treat HCC. We investigated the antitumoral effects of mTOR inhibition in a HCC model.


Hepatoma cells were implanted into livers of syngeneic rats. Animals were treated with the mTOR inhibitor sirolimus for 4 weeks. Tumor growth was monitored by MR imaging. Antiangiogenic effects were assessed in vivo by microvessel density and corrosion casts and in vitro by cell proliferation, tube formation and aortic ring assays.


Treated rats had significantly longer survival and developed smaller tumors, fewer extrahepatic metastases and less ascites than controls. Sirolimus decreased intratumoral microvessel density resulting in extensive necrosis. Endothelial cell proliferation was inhibited at lower drug concentrations than hepatoma cells. Tube formation and vascular sprouting of aortic rings were significantly impaired by mTOR inhibition. Casts revealed that in tumors treated with sirolimus vascular sprouting was absent, whereas intussusception was observed.


mTOR inhibition significantly reduces HCC growth and improves survival primarily via antiangiogenic effects. Inhibitors of mTOR may have a role in HCC treatment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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