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Abstract

In a comprehensive human ecological study, primary liver cancer has been shown to be highly significantly associated with 1) the prevalence of persistent infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and 2) plasma cholesterol concentrations that are, in turn, associated with the consumption of animal based foods. In rat studies, aflatoxin-induced hepatocellular carcinoma is substantially prevented by decreasing the intake of animal based protein (casein), a hypercholesterolemic nutrient. Thus the development of primary liver cancer associated with persistent HBV infection or with aflatoxin exposure may be controlled by reduced intake of animal-based proteins. Transgenic mice transfected with an HBV gene fragment containing the viral transactivator of hepatis B virus, HBx, which induces the formation of hepatocellular carcinoma, were used to examine the ability of dietary casein to modify tumor formation. Reducing the concentration of dietary casein to 6% from the traditional level of 22% markedly inhibited (by 75%) hepatic tumor formation in these transgenic mice. Tumor development also was substantially altered by interchanging dietary casein concentration well after tumor development had begun (at 8 months), increasing by 173% from the expected yield when casein intake was increased and decreasing by 99% when casein was reduced. These findings suggest that the development of liver tumor formation among individuals persistently infected with HBV may be controlled by minimizing or eliminating the intake of animal protein-based foods.