Copyright ©The Author(s) 2015. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Hepatol. Jul 28, 2015; 7(15): 1964-1970
Published online Jul 28, 2015. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v7.i15.1964
Mechanisms of hepatocellular carcinoma and challenges and opportunities for molecular targeted therapy
Chuan Chen, Ge Wang
Chuan Chen, Ge Wang, Cancer Center, Research Institute of Surgery, Daping Hospital, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing 400042, China
Author contributions: Chen C and Wang G contributed to this paper.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors declared that they have no conflicts of interest to this work.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Ge Wang, Professor, Cancer Center, Research Institute of Surgery, Daping Hospital, Third Military Medical University, No. 10 Changjiang Zhi Rd., Daping Yuzhong District, Chongqing 400042, China.
Telephone: +86-23-687757161 Fax: +86-23-687757171
Received: September 1, 2014
Peer-review started: September 1, 2014
First decision: October 11, 2014
Revised: June 30, 2015
Accepted: July 16, 2015
Article in press: July 17, 2015
Published online: July 28, 2015

The incidence and mortality of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) have fallen dramatically in China and elsewhere over the past several decades. Nonetheless, HCC remains a major public health issue as one of the most common malignant tumors worldwide and one of the leading causes of death caused by cancer in China. Hepatocarcinogenesis is a very complex biological process associated with many environmental risk factors and factors in heredity, including abnormal activation of cellular and molecular signaling pathways such as Wnt/β-catenin, hedgehog, MAPK, AKT, and ERK signaling pathways, and the balance between the activation and inactivation of the proto-oncogenes and anti-oncogenes, and the differentiation of liver cancer stem cells. Molecule-targeted therapy, a new approach for the treatment of liver cancer, blocks the growth of cancer cells by interfering with the molecules required for carcinogenesis and tumor growth, making it both specific and selective. However, there is no one drug completely designed for liver cancer, and further development in the research of liver cancer targeted drugs is now almost stagnant. The purpose of this review is to discuss recent advances in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of HCC and in the development of novel strategies for cancer therapeutics.

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma, Oncogene, Signal pathway, Cancer stem cell, Molecular targeted therapy

Core tip: The molecular mechanism of hepatocarcinogenesis is complex and is associated with the regulation function of a variety of signal transduction pathways and key molecules. Presently, there are many drugs that target the molecules that are involved in tumor development (molecule-targeted drugs), but the specificity of such drugs is lacking. This paper summarizes the targeted molecular drugs which may be useful for the clinical treatment of liver cancer, and lays the theoretical foundation for the further study of more specific and effective drugs that target the molecules involved in liver cancer.