• apoptosis;
  • Bcl-3;
  • cFLIP;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • NF-κB


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains a disease with a poor prognosis despite recent advances in the pathophysiology and treatment. Although the disease is biologically heterogeneous, dysregulation of cellular proliferation and apoptosis both occur frequently and contribute to the malignant phenotype. Chronic liver disease is associated with intrahepatic inflammation which promotes dysregulation of cellular signaling pathways; this triggers proliferation and thus lays the ground for expansion of premalignant cells. Cancer emerges when immunological control fails and transformed cells develop resistance against cell death signaling pathways. The same mechanisms underlie the poor responsiveness of HCC towards chemotherapy. Only recently advances in understanding the signaling pathways involved has led to the development of an effective pharmacological therapy for advanced disease. The current review will discuss apoptosis signaling pathways and focus on apoptosis resistance of HCC involving derangements in cell death receptors (e.g. tumor necrosis factor-alpha [TNF], CD95/Apo-1, TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand [TRAIL]) and associated adapter molecules (e.g. FADD and FLIP) of apoptotic signaling pathways. In addition, the role of the transcription factor nuclear factor-kappaB (NFκB) and members of the B cell leukemia-2 (Bcl-2) family that contribute to the regulation of apoptosis in hepatocytes are discussed. Eventually, the delineation of cell death signaling pathways could contribute to the implementation of new therapeutic strategies to treat HCC.