February 20, 2013

Factor CITED in pediatric liver cancer

Vanderbilt researchers report that they have found a factor involved in the persistence of embryonic cells implicated in childhood liver cancer.

(Wellcome Images)

Hepatoblastoma – a childhood liver cancer – is thought to result from embryonic cells that do not fully “mature” and remain present beyond birth.

In a search for factors involved in the persistence of these cells, Andrew Murphy, M.D., Harold Lovvorn III, M.D., and colleagues characterized the expression of CITED1. They had previously demonstrated that this transcriptional regulator was expressed during kidney development and in Wilms tumor (a pediatric kidney cancer).

In the journal Neoplasia, they now report that CITED1 is expressed in early liver development, but not in the adult. They found that hepatoblastoma tumors express CITED1, and that the factor induces proliferation of cultured hepatoblastoma cells. They also demonstrated that CITED1 is re-expressed during liver regeneration following injury in mouse models.

The findings suggest that CITED1 may have a role in keeping embryonic cells in an immature, stem cell-like state in liver and kidney. CITED1 and its associated signaling pathways may suggest new therapeutic targets for tumors with embryonic origins.

This research was supported by the Vanderbilt Section of Surgical Sciences and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and by grants from the National Institutes of Health (CA106183, CA135695).