Scientists ID Gene Linked to Aggressive Liver Cancer

Finding, though preliminary, might lead to better treatments

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It is unlikely that the peptide used to block SALL4 in this study would be a viable drug for liver cancer patients, Melner said.

"A number of drug companies have tried peptide-based drugs," he said. "Although the drugs are effective, they need to be present in relatively high concentrations. It's been difficult to achieve those levels in humans."

However, clinical trials are under way involving targeted drugs that inhibit the expression of genes with stem-cell features, Thorgierrson noted.

"These will also affect SALL4, so there may already be available drugs that can be a potentially useful treatment," he said. "This needs to be expanded into proper medical trials, but the data set is very impressive."

More information

The American Cancer Society explains how liver cancer is found.

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