Scientists Discover Involvement of Known Protein (Clathrin) in Liver Cancer: Finding Has Clear Clinical Relevance, As It Will Facilitate Patient Selection for More Specific Therapy

Researchers at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) in Barcelona, Spain, have just described, for the first time, the crucial involvement of a cell membrane protein in the development and progression of liver cancer, according to an article published online on September 25, 2019 in the Journal of Hepatology. The open-access article is titled “Clathrin Switches Transforming Growth Factor-β role to Pro-Tumorigenic in Liver Cancer.” This protein, called clathrin, is known for its key role in the process of internalization of molecules from the extracellular space into the cell, called endocytosis. In this process, the cell membrane folds, creating vesicles with a cladded structure. Thanks to the new results, analyzing the levels of clathrin expression in biopsies of hepatocellular carcinoma patients will help select those patients who will benefit from a much more targeted and personalized therapy. The research team, led by Dr. Isabel Fabregat, who is a professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the University of Barcelona and a researcher at the CIBER of Hepatic and Digestive Diseases, has shown that liver cells with invasive features have high levels of clathrin, a protein whose involvement in liver cancer was unknown until now. Specifically, researchers showed that high expression levels of clathrin correlate with the activation of the pro-tumorigenic pathway of a known hepatic carcinogenesis actor: TGF-β. In this sense, the work provides completely new and clinically valuable knowledge when it comes to understanding the complex and controversial role of TGF-β in this type of cancer.
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