Get access

The molecular pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma


Molecular Hepatology Laboratory, MGH Cancer Center, 149 13th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


SUMMARY. Some of the multiple factors involved in the molecular pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma have been elucidated in recent years but no clear picture of how and in what sequence these factors interact at the molecular level has emerged yet. Transformation of hepatocytes to the malignant phenotype may occur irrespective of the aetiological agent through a pathway of chronic liver injury, regeneration and cirrhosis. The activation of cellular oncogenes, the inactivation of tumour suppressor genes and overexpression of certain growth factors contribute to the development of HCC. There is increasing evidence that the hepatitis B virus may play a direct role in the molecular pathogenesis of HCC. Aflatoxins have been shown to induce specific mutations of the p53 tumour suppressor gene thus providing a clue to how an environmental factor may contribute to tumour development at the molecular level.