Deadly Liver Cancer May Be Triggered by Cells Changing Identity, UCSF Study Shows
Intrahepatic bile duct cancer, a rare and deadly form of cancer, known formally as cholangiocarcinoma, has been assumed to derive from cells in the bile ducts of the liver. However, an international team, led by Holger F. Willenbring, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology in the Division of Transplant Surgery, Xin Chen, Ph.D.,and other prominent researchers, has shown that the disease actually may develop when hepatocytes, the most common type of liver cell, are transformed into intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma cells or (ICCs), a process scientists previously thought all but impossible. The researchers were able to induce cholangiocarcinoma in mice by activating two well-known genes, Notch and AKT. Their discovery has therapeutic potential in that drugs targeting the aberrant activity of those genes could lead to the effective treatments currently lacking and to improved long-term survival.