The goal of this project is to decipher how various liver injuries and disorders can accelerate and exacerbate development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), one leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. The immediate focus is on elucidating the tumorigenic liver damages generated ironically by loss of pro-oncogenic molecules in hepatocytes. In recent experiments, we found that deletion of Shp2/Ptpn11, previously known to be pro-oncogenic, aggravated HCC development induced by diethylnitrosamine (DEN) or by Pten deficiency and NASH. Consistently, several other groups reported that targeted removal of oncoproteins, such as c-Met, Ikkb, and b-catenin, from hepatocytes indeed aggravated HCC induced by DEN or other oncogenic drivers. However, the underlying mechanisms for the anti-oncogenic effect of these oncoproteins are unclear. Our hypothesis is that loss of the pro-oncogenic molecules generates a variety of tumor-promoting factors in the liver microenvironment, resulting in exacerbated tumorigenesis. Of note, these mouse tumor models closely recapitulate many aspects of the pathogenic process in liver cancer patients. Therefore, we believe that common mechanisms or oncogenic liver disorders are shared between the mouse models and human patients in tumor initiation and progression. On this project, we will pursue a comprehensive analysis of the molecular and cellular events that drive hepato-carcinogenesis using several mouse models. We propose the following three Specific Aims: 1) to search and identify tumorigenic factors in livers deficient for c-Met, Ikkb, Shp2 or b-catenin; 2) to determine the mutation profiles and HCC initiation in these mutants; and 3) to characterize DEN-induced and spontaneous tumorigenesis in liver deficient for both Shp2 and Ikkb. Success of this project will decipher common and distinctive mechanisms that drive liver tumorigenesis, and will facilitate design of novel and effective therapeutic strategies for liver cancer.
Liver cancer is now a leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the world and the incidences are rising rapidly in this country. However, how various liver injuries and disorders can aggravate tumorigenesis is poorly understood. Success of this project will contribute to better understanding of the carcinogenic liver damages and will provide novel therapeutic strategies for this malignant disease.