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Clin Cancer Res. 2009 May 15;15(10):3462-71. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2127. Epub 2009 May 15.

An Akt/hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha/platelet-derived growth factor-BB autocrine loop mediates hypoxia-induced chemoresistance in liver cancer cells and tumorigenic hepatic progenitor cells.

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  • 1Center for Cancer Research and Department of Surgery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.



The goals of the present study were to investigate the mechanism of hypoxia-mediated chemoresistance in liver cancer cells and tumorigenic hepatic progenitor (oval) cells and to determine whether disrupting an Akt/hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha)/platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-BB autocrine loop can enhance chemotherapeutic efficacy in hypoxia.


Five hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines and two hepatic progenitor cell lines were treated in vitro with cisplatin under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions. To generate ischemic hypoxia for tumor cells in vivo, hepatic artery ligation was applied to an orthotopic HCC model. Cisplatin and YC1, which is a HIF-1alpha inhibitor, were administered by portal vein and intratumoral injections, respectively.


Cell viability was higher under hypoxic than normoxic conditions. HIF-1alpha and Akt were up-regulated under hypoxic conditions, forming an autocrine signaling loop with PDGF-BB. Akt/HIF-1alpha/PDGF-BB signaling regulated Akt to confer cisplatin resistance to HCC cell lines in vitro. This autocrine signaling loop also contributed to chemoresistance in the tumorigenic hepatic progenitor cell line PIL2 under hypoxic conditions but not in the nontumorigenic cell line PIL4. In an orthotopic HCC model, combining blockade of HIF-1alpha activity with ischemic hypoxia significantly enhanced the efficacy of chemotherapy, leading to suppression of tumor growth and prolongation of animal survival.


Blockade of Akt/HIF-1alpha/PDGF-BB autocrine signaling could enhance the chemosensitivity of liver cancer cells and tumorigenic hepatic progenitor cells under hypoxic conditions and thus provide an effective therapeutic strategy for HCC.

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