Hot on the trail of the hepatitis-liver cancer connection

Using whole genomic sequencing, scientists from RIKEN in Japan have for the first time demonstrated the profound effect that chronic hepatitis infection and inflammation can have on the genetic mutations found in tumors of the liver, potentially paving the way to a better understanding of the mechanisms through which these chronic infections can lead to cancer. Primary liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide, and recent studies have shown that particularly in Asia, infection with either hepatitis B or C is often associated with such cancers.

For the study, which was published in Nature Communications, the group performed whole genomic sequencing on 30 individual tumors classified as liver cancer displaying a biliary phenotype. This type of cancer originates in the liver, but is different from hepatocellular carcinoma, the dominant form of primary liver cancer, and is generally more aggressive, with poorer prognosis. They compared the data with 60 of the more-common hepatocellular carcinoma tumors. To study gene expression, they then examined RNA sequencing data from 25 of the biliary-phenotype cancers and 44 hepatocellular cancers.

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