Wilmot Researchers Create New Way to Study Liver Cancer

“We’ve not yet had good ways to study these mutations and their effects on the biliary system in humans,” Hezel stated. “Among the problems with understanding this cancer is trying to get a handle on where these tumors come from and what steps lead up to them. We tend not to have lots of biopsies of the liver. Effective screening tests for other cancers provide samples that can be studied and provide an indication of where that cancer is coming from; that’s not the case with this form of cancer. We’ve been able to make genetic changes as seen in humans and place it in a mouse model. By studying mice, we think we can learn what cells the disease comes from. We hope we have provided step upward towards a better view of the disease, both for ourselves and for others studying it.”

Co-investigators in the study included Hartmut “Hucky” Land, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD); Michael O’Dell, B.S., Wilmot Cancer Center; Christa Whitney-Miller, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (SMD); Valerie Grose, B. S.. Wilmot Cancer Center; Randall Rossi, M.S., Wilmot Cancer Center; and Vikram Deshpande, M.D., Andrew Zhu, M.D., Ph.D, and Nabeel Bardeesy, Ph.D., all of Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

What are the risk factors of developing liver cancer?

Having hepatitis or cirrhosis can affect the risk of developing adult primary liver cancer. Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. The following are possible risk factors for adult primary liver cancer:

Having hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C.
Having a close relative with both hepatitis and liver cancer.
Having cirrhosis.
Eating foods tainted with aflatoxin (poison from a fungus that can grow on foods, such as grains and nuts, that have not been stored properly).


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