Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the major type of liver cancer, accounting for 85-90% of all cases. NASH, hepatitis virus infection, and alcohol consumption all are major causes of HCC. Globally, over 700,000 people die each year from liver cancer which is second only to lung cancer among all cancer-related deaths. The high mortality is due to the fact that only around half of all people who develop HCC (in developed countries) receive the diagnosis early enough to have an opportunity for therapeutic intervention. Additionally, recurrence rates are high, and current treatment options remain limited.

HCC is a type of cancer in which the tissue microenvironment plays a major role in its development. In most cases HCC is preceded by significant, long-term damage to liver cells, inflammation and fibrosis. One-third of people with cirrhosis, a very advanced stage of liver disease, will eventually progress to HCC. The chronic injury to the liver leads to many genetic mutations that eventually lead to transformation of cells and formation of tumors. The noxious tissue microenvironment also promotes cancer by altering the function of immune cells and endothelial cells which form tumor-supporting blood vessels. These various events underscore the importance of halting liver injury and scarring as early and effectively as possible to prevent cancer development.