An enzyme has been discovered to play a critical role in blocking the metabolic processes that contribute to the rapid growth and spread of liver cancer, according to a new study by Weill Cornell Medicine researchers, a finding that could spur development of new therapies for a condition that has been historically difficult to treat.
The study, published June 25 in Cancer Cell, demonstrates that low levels of the enzyme protein kinase C (PKC) λ/i in mice and human liver tumors are associated with the aggressive form of cancer, and that the protein acts as a tumor suppressor. The researchers also describe the metabolic pathways that PKC λ/i directly blocks to inhibit tumors.
“Treatments for liver cancer are not particularly effective as compared with other types of cancer,” said lead study author Dr. Jorge Moscat, a professor of pathology and laboratory Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “It’s a devastating disease.”
About 27,000 people in the United States die from liver cancer each year.The cancer is associated with nonalcoholic fatty livery disease (NAFLD), a condition in which too much fat is stored in the liver. NAFLD, which is on the rise in the U.S., is in turn linked to more common diseases such as obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.