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Acyclic retinoid in the chemoprevention of hepatocellular carcinoma (Review)

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We here review therapeutic application of a synthetic analog of retinoids (vitamin A and its derivatives), named acyclic retinoid (AR), towards chemoprevention of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and its underlying molecular mechanisms. A high incidence of post-therapeutic recurrence has become a major determinant of the prognosis of HCC, especially in the patients of hepatitis virus-infected cirrhosis. Oral supplementation of AR successfully prevented the recurrence of HCC, associated with a disappearance in serum levels of lectin-reactive α-fetoprotein (AFP-L3), a marker of occult cancer clones in the liver, suggesting eradication of latent malignant clones from patients' liver. This led us a novel concept of ‘clonal deletion’ with AR as an agent that is conceptually similar to cancer chemotherapy. HCC in cirrhotic patients contains lower levels of endogenous retinoids and simultaneously is insensitive to retinoic acid (RA) because of malfunction of its nuclear receptor, retinoid X receptor α (RXRα). In HCC tissues, RXRα is constitutively phosphorylated by the action of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk), thereby losing its transactivation activity and becoming resistant to degradation via ubiquitin/proteasome pathway. This leads to accumulation of phospho-inactivated RXRα, that functions as a dominant negative receptor and interferes with transactivation by remaining normal RXRα. AR but not natural RA prevents phosphorylation of RXRα and restores the function of RXRα via down-regulating Ras/Erk system, making HCC cells sensitive to the endogenous ligand, 9-cis-RA. This may link to both caspase-dependent and -independent apoptosis of the cancer cells via induction of growth suppressor(s) such as p21CIP1 and/or apoptosis inducer(s) including tissue transglutaminase. AR also enhances the sensitivity of HCC cells to interferons-α and -β, and thereby indirectly promotes apoptosis induced by these interferons. In summary, our clinical experience and basic research together provide a strong rationale to use AR in the chemoprevention of HCC.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Molecular Cell Pathology Research Unit, RIKEN, Wako, Japan

Publication date: April 1, 2004

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  • The International Journal of Oncology provides an international forum for the publication of the latest, cutting-edge research in the broad area of oncology and cancer treatment. The journal accepts original high quality works and reviews on all aspects of oncology research including carcinogenesis, metastasis, epidemiology, chemotherapy and viral oncology. Through fair and efficient peer review, the journal is dedicated to publishing top tier research in the field, offering authors rapid publication as well as high standards of copy-editing and production. The International Journal of Oncology is published on a monthly basis in both print and early online.
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