Progress on the Liver Cancer Front

by Alysia Drummond on March 20, 2012

Nearly everyone knows someone with cancer.  There’s a lot of awareness around cancers of the breast and lung, but liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) doesn’t see much airtime.  Despite its lack of fame, hepatocellular carcinoma is the fifth most common cancer in the world, and was responsible for 695,000 deaths in 2008 alone.  Liver cancer is aggressive.  Five years after diagnosis, the relative survival rate is only 14%, largely because we just don’t know how to treat it.  Currently, patients with hepatocellular carcinoma only have one treatment option: surgery and a somewhat effective chemotherapy designed for kidney cancer.  But progress is being made in this field.  Researchers have discovered a new molecule that shows promise for additional chemotherapy treatments.

The research uses oncogene addiction, a technique in which the disruption of one cellular protein leads to the death of the cancer cell.  In this case, that protein is LSF.  LSF is found in all human cells and organs, but is more abundant in tumor cells.  The high levels of LSF in liver cancer cells lead to the growth of the cancerous tumors.  Scientists used to think it was impossible to create a drug targeting LSF, however, this compound changed their minds.

Factor quinolinone inhibitor 1 (FQI1) is a compound made from lead that has been shown to target the protein LSF in mice, and human patient tissue samples.  By inhibiting the protein, it was able to kill liver cancer cells and prevent tumor growth.  Many chemotherapy drugs are able to kill cancer cells, but the problem is they also kill healthy cells.  What makes this finding so important is that it killed only the cancer cells, leaving the surrounding non-cancerous cells untouched.

This finding has set the groundwork for a chemotherapy option specific to hepatocellular carcinoma that only kills cancerous cells.  This drug has the potential to save many lives and increase the survival rate of a devastating disease affecting people across the globe.


Grant, T.J., Bishop, J.A., Christadore, L.M., Barot, G., Chin, H.G., Woodson, S., Kavouris, J., Siddiq, A., Gredler, R., Shen, X., Sherman, J., Meehan, T., Fitzgerald, K., Pradhan, S., Briggs, L.A., Andrews, W.H., Sarkar, D., Schaus, S.E., and Hansen, U. (2012). Antiproliferative small-molecule inhibitors of transcription factor LSF reveal oncogene addiction to LSF in hepatocellular carcinoma. PNAS, 109 (11), 1-6.  Doi:10.1073/pnas.1121601109

Jennifer March 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm

What’s LSF stand for?

Alysia Drummond March 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Thanks for reading, Jennifer. LSF stands for Late SV40 Factor. It’s a transcription factor (protein) that’s just known as LSF. For the purposes of this article, it’s the target of a new chemotherapy drug possibility in liver cancer.

Robyn Sussel March 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm

It might be necessary to define LSF (although I’m not sure it would mean much to me) but I thought this possible breakthrough was well explained overall. I would have perhaps gone for a snappier title, but good job!

Alysia Drummond March 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Thanks for commenting. See above for the definition.

Riikkker March 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Despite it’s lack of fame >> Despite its lack of fame

Alysia Drummond March 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Thanks for catching that.

Riikkker March 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm

one treatment option: surgery and a somewhat effective chemotherapy designed for kidney cancer >>
two treatment options: surgery and a somewhat effective chemotherapy designed for kidney cancer

Alysia Drummond March 20, 2012 at 8:10 pm

This is actually a single treatment option. They perform both of these things together as the only option for treatment.

Gaythia Weis March 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm

maybe if you added the phrase “combined with” here the fact this is one treatement would be made clear?

Gaythia Weis March 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm

“treatment” Posted too fast, no editing available!

Angela March 23, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Thanks for the post. Have witnessed one liver cancer death in the family, so I know how little chance of survival there is so far. Glad there is new research that seems to be opening up possibilities. The post was overall a bit technical for me – maybe put in some more general information on cancer or some kind of predictions, if they were in the research you are drawing on, e.g. about how this research will continue (trials?).

Biekram Ganga April 7, 2012 at 3:11 am

My wife has been treated for Ovarian Cancer. After surgery she went through a chemmo treatment. Now the she has two tumors in the liver. Can this treatment also be applied in her case?
I heard about RFA treatment. What are the chances. Please, I need help rgently.
Thanks, Biekram Ganga

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