Vitamin A derivative selectively kills liver cancer stem cells
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Acyclic retinoid, an artificial compound derived from vitamin A, has been found to prevent the recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer. Now, in research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists have discovered that the compound targets one class of cancer stem cells, preventing them from giving rise to new tumors.

HCC is a highly lethal cancer, which causes approximately 600,000 deaths each year around the world, making it the second deadliest cancer after non-small cell lung cancer. One of the reasons for the high lethality is that it has a high rate of recurrence–surgery and other treatments are initially effective, but the cancer often relapses. As a result, researchers have looked for ways to prevent recurrence, and acyclic retinoid was recently found to be effective in stopping recurrence of tumors. However, scientists were not sure exactly why it worked.

To find clues, a research group led by Soichi Kojima of the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Science looked at the transcriptome of cells that had been exposed to acyclic retinoid, and found that compared to control untreated cells, they had low expression of MYCN, a gene that is often

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