Liver cancer stem cells: implications for a new therapeutic target

Authors

  • Terence Kin Wah Lee,

    1. Liver Cancer and Hepatitis Research Laboratory and S. H. Ho Foundation Research Laboratories, Department of Pathology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
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    • *Contributed equally to this work.

  • Antonia Castilho,

    1. Liver Cancer and Hepatitis Research Laboratory and S. H. Ho Foundation Research Laboratories, Department of Pathology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
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    • *Contributed equally to this work.

  • Stephanie Ma,

    1. Liver Cancer and Hepatitis Research Laboratory and S. H. Ho Foundation Research Laboratories, Department of Pathology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
    2. Department of Clinical Oncology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
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  • Irene Oi Lin Ng

    1. Liver Cancer and Hepatitis Research Laboratory and S. H. Ho Foundation Research Laboratories, Department of Pathology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
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    • Loke Yew Professor in Pathology.


Correspondence
Prof. Irene Oi Lin Ng, Liver Cancer and Hepatitis Research Laboratory and S. H. Ho Foundation Research Laboratories, Department of Pathology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Room 127B, University Pathology Building, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2855 3967
Fax: +852 2872 5197
e-mail: iolng@hkucc.hku.hk

Abstract

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an aggressive tumour with a poor prognosis. Current therapeutic strategies against this disease target mostly rapidly growing differentiated tumour cells. However, the result is often dismal due to the chemoresistant nature of this tumour type. Recent research efforts on stem cells and cancer biology have shed light on new directions for the eradication of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in HCC. The liver is a distinctive organ with the ability of tissue renewal in response to injury. Based on the hypothesis that cancer development is derived from the hierarchy of the stem cell system, we will briefly discuss the origin of liver stem cells and its relation to HCC development. We will also summarize the current CSC markers in HCC and discuss their relevance to the treatment of this deadly disease.

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