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Oncotarget. 2016 Sep 20;7(38):62647-62656. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.11591.

Sirolimus and metformin synergistically inhibit hepatocellular carcinoma cell proliferation and improve long-term survival in patients with HCC related to hepatitis B virus induced cirrhosis after liver transplantation.

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Department of General Surgery, Ruijin Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.


Immunosuppressive agents used postoperatively after liver transplantation (LT) for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) favor recurrence and metastasis. Therefore, new effective immunosuppressants are needed. This retrospective study assessed combined sirolimus and metformin on survival of HCC patients after LT. In 2001-2013, 133 HCC patients with LT were divided into four groups: sirolimus and metformin combination (Sir+Met), sirolimus monotherapy (Sir), other immunosuppressants in diabetes mellitus (DM) patients without metformin (No Sir with DM), and other immunosuppressants in patients without DM (No Sir without DM). Kaplan-Meier and Log-rank tests were used to assess survival. Cell proliferation and tumor xenograft assays were performed to disclose the mechanisms underlying the sirolimus and metformin effects. The Sir+Met group showed significantly prolonged survival compared to the other groups. The most significant cytotoxicity was seen in the Sir+Met group, with significantly decreased levels of phosphorylated PI3K, AKT, AMPK, mTOR, 4EBP1 and S6K, compared with the other groups. In agreement, Sir+Met had the highest suppressive effect on tumor growth among all groups (P<0.01). In summary, Sir+Met treatment significantly prolonged survival, likely by suppressing cell proliferation. Therefore, this combination could represent a potential routine-regimen for patients post LT.


HCC; liver transplantation; mTOR; metformin; rapamycin

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