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GEN News Highlights : Dec 15, 2009

Researchers Discover Tumor-Suppressor Gene Involved in Liver Cancer

HCC tissue samples showed that the gene SCARA5 was subject to genetic loss and epigenetic silencing, according to a study in JCI.

SCARA5 has been identified as a candidate tumor suppressor gene in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) by researchers from the Chinese National Human Genome Center at Shanghai. The authors report that SCARA5 protein downregulation as a result of SCARA5 genetic loss and epigenetic silencing can contribute to HCC tumor development and progression. 

In their study, analysis of HCC tissue samples indicated that SCARA5 was frequently subjected to genetic loss and epigenetic silencing. They also observed that SCARA5 protein downregulation was most marked in HCC tissue samples characterized by tumor invasion into the blood vessels (a sign of aggressive disease).

Furthermore, SCARA5 knockdown via RNAi markedly enhanced HCC growth in vitro, colony formation in soft agar, as well as invasiveness, tumorigenicity, and lung metastasis in vivo. By contrast, SCARA5 overexpression suppressed these malignant behaviors. 

Further analysis in HCC cells lines in vitro and after xenotransplantation into mice were consistent with SCARA5 being a tumor suppressor gene. The authors published their findings in a study called “Genetic and epigenetic silencing of SCARA5 may contribute to human hepatocellular carcinoma by activating FAK signaling,” which appears in the December 14 online edition of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.