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Emergence of cancer stem cells in the early stages of hepatic carcinogenesis and development of innovative models of hepatocellular carcinoma

Abstract : Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a major public health problem, being the second most lethal cancer with an increasing incidence around the world. The only approved systemic drug is the multikinase inhibitor Sorafenib, which prolongs patients’ survival by only three months. HCC is refractory to known chemotherapeutic drugs and more than 50% of patients relapse after surgical tumor removal. These phenomena are thought to be due to the existence of a population of poorly differentiated cancer cells, largely known as liver cancer stem cells (CSCs). Recent studies revealed that CSCs activate similar pathways as normal stem cells. They are therefore highly resistant to therapies and are thought to be capable of self-renewal and generation of tumor’s heterogeneous cell mass. The understanding of mechanisms proper to liver CSCs should allow the development of innovative drugs with original mechanism of action against liver CSC, likely to improve patients’ outcome. However, the development of new therapies against HCC is penalized by the limited number of experimental models.According to these current challenges in the field of HCC research, my PhD thesis project covers three main axes: Development of novel models of disease (IMODI consortium)The Innovative Models of Disease (IMODI) consortium is mainly dedicated to the development of innovative experimental models for 7 different types of cancer. Our participation to the project concerned 3 main objectives i) development of HCC patient-derived xenografts ii) development of new HCC cell lines and iii) set up a cryoconservation method of primary human hepatocytes (PHHs) in the aim to employ them in humanizing murine livers. 30 patients planned for HCC tumor resection were recruited and their clinicopathological data were collected. Fresh tumor specimens were subcutaneously xenografted in immune-deficient mice and dissociated for in-vitro tumor cell culture. One tumor led to the development of a moderately differentiated HCC PDX model, as confirmed by histological characterization. Several studies showed the importance of PDX models in drug discovery as they recapitulate the drug-sensitivity patterns seen in patients from which they derive but very few models have been described in the literature for HCC. In vitro, primary HCC cells could be maintained in culture for a limited period of time, in average 30 days. No HCC cell lines developed due to cells entering replicative senescence, as previously described
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Elena Patricia Gifu. Emergence of cancer stem cells in the early stages of hepatic carcinogenesis and development of innovative models of hepatocellular carcinoma. Cancer. Université de Lyon, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017LYSE1319⟩. ⟨tel-01782406⟩

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