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Natural Protein Could Help Spot, Treat Liver Cancer

Nerve growth factor found at higher levels in these tumors, scientists say

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A natural protein called nerve growth factor (NGF) may prove an effective target for the treatment of liver cancer, Italian researchers say.

NGF is an essential component in the growth and differentiation of neuronal cells, explained the team, who reported their findings in the Oct. 7 issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology.

This study found that NGF also appears to be a factor in liver cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death worldwide.

A team at the National Research Council of Italy and elsewhere found that NGF and its receptor trk/ANGF were expressed in the livers of patients with liver cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The two molecules were not detected in the livers of healthy people.

The findings indicate that NGF plays an important role in the development of liver cirrhosis and its progression to HCC, the researchers said. By targeting NGF, it may be possible to prevent or suppress the development of cirrhosis and HCC.

NGF may also prove a useful marker for early diagnosis of liver cirrhosis and HCC, the team noted.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about liver cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: World Journal of Gastroenterology, news release, Sept. 19, 2007

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