The TGF-β Pathway: A Pharmacological Target in Hepatocellular Carcinoma?
Ester Gonzalez-Sanchez 1 2 3, Javier Vaquero 1 2, Maite G Férnandez-Barrena 1 4 5, Juan José Lasarte 5 6, Matías A Avila 1 4 5, Pablo Sarobe 1 5 6, María Reig 1 7, Mariona Calvo 2 8, Isabel Fabregat 1 2 3
Transforming Growth Factor-beta (TGF-β) superfamily members are essential for tissue homeostasis and consequently, dysregulation of their signaling pathways contributes to the development of human diseases.
In the liver, TGF-β signaling participates in all the stages of disease progression from initial liver injury to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). During liver carcinogenesis, TGF-β plays a dual role on the malignant cell, behaving as a suppressor factor at early stages, but contributing to later tumor progression once cells escape from its cytostatic effects.
Moreover, TGF-β can modulate the response of the cells forming the tumor microenvironment that may also contribute to HCC progression, and drive immune evasion of cancer cells. Thus, targeting the TGF-β pathway may constitute an effective therapeutic option for HCC treatment. However, it is crucial to identify biomarkers that allow to predict the response of the tumors and appropriately select the patients that could benefit from TGF-β inhibitory therapies. Here we review the functions of TGF-β on HCC malignant and tumor microenvironment cells, and the current strategies targeting TGF-β signaling for cancer therapy.
We also summarize the clinical impact of TGF-β inhibitors in HCC patients and provide a perspective on its future use alone or in combinatorial strategies for HCC treatment.
Keywords: HCC; HCC immunotherapy; HCC targeted therapy; TGF-beta; TGF-beta inhibitors.