Liver cancer is one of the most common malignant tumors. It is reported to be the third most lethal malignancy worldwide. Recent studies including our own identified CD133+ cell population as the tumor initiating cells for liver cancer. Tumor suppressor PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome ten) is aberrantly expressed in liver cancers. Liver specific Pten (Pm) null mice develop liver cancer following an extensive phase of chronic lipid accumulation and demonstrate escalating levels of hepatic injury markers from 6-12M, prior to hepatic progenitor cell proliferation. Concomitantly, expression of mRNA levels for Wnt ligands and receptors also increased progressively. Wnt/β-Catenin signaling pathway has various roles in regulating embryonic development and tumorigenesis. In Pten null liver progenitor cell line and tissues; we observed high levels of βcatenin, a downstream target component of the Wnt signaling pathway compared to control cells.

In this study, we investigate the role of the Wnt/β-Catenin pathway in the activation of hepatic progenitor cells in the Pten deletion liver cancer model using two methods: a novel Wnt/β-Catenin inhibitor ICG-001 and β-Catenin specific RNAi. ICG-001 is a small molecule, which specifically inhibits β-Catenin/CBP interaction. Coactivator CBP/β-Catenin/T cell factor (TCF) mediated transcription has been reported as critical for stem cell/progenitor cell proliferation.

ICG-001 significantly attenuates the proliferation of hepatic cancer stem cells in vitro and in vivo. Our preliminary results demonstrate inhibition of Wnt/β-Catenin pathway using sh-β-Catenin in vitro can effectively inhibit the proliferation of CD133+ hepatic cancer stem cells.

These observations indicate that Wnt/β- Catenin pathway likely mediates proliferation of hepatic cancer stem cell. Targeting this pathway using ICG-001 and/or β-Catenin directed shRNA holds promise for the treatment and eradication of liver cancer.

Citation Format: Anketse D. Kassa, Vivian G. Medina, Ni Zeng, Lina He, Cu Nguyen, Goar Smbatyan, Megan Rieger, Michael Kahn, Bangyan L. Stiles. The therapeutic potential of ICG-001 and β-catenin specific RNAi in liver cancer development. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 104th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2013 Apr 6-10; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2013;73(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 4014. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2013-4014