Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a frequent neoplasia which still misses a therapeutical gold standard. Recently, new acquisitions in cancerogenesis process evidenced the genetic and epigenetic alterations of genes involved in the different metabolic pathways of liver cancer suggesting that antibodies, small molecules, demethylating agents, etc. specifically acting against molecular target can be utilized alone or in combination in clinical practice. The main altered targets are: cell membrane receptors, in particular tyrosine kinase receptors, factors involved in cell signalling, specifically Wnt/β-catenin, Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK and PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathways, proteins linked to cell cycle regulation pathway (i.e. p53, p16/INK4, cyclin/cdk complex) or in invasiveness (EMT, TGFbeta) and proteins involved in DNA metabolism. Genetic or epigenetic changes in these molecules have been used in preclinical settings and, some of them also in clinical trials of phase II and III. This scenario opens new avenues for the prevention and the treatment of HCC. In the present review the main metabolic pathways and molecular alterations have been described together with recent advances in molecular and gene therapy.
Hepatocarcinoma, target therapies, molecular alterations, cellular pathways
Clinical Experimental Oncology Laboratory, National Cancer Institute “Giovanni Paolo II”, v. Hahneman 10, 70126 Bari, Italy.