BMS Researchers Link Hepatitis B Virus and Liver Cancer

December 2, 2016

Members of the BMS research team studying hepatitis B virus and liver cancer: (left-right) Ellen Weigel, 2nd year DVM student; Dante' Johnson, student in the PREP program (Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program in the Biomedical Sciences); Ahmed Diab, PhD student; Dr. Ourania Andrisani, professor of Basic Medical Sciences; and Dr. Hao Zhang, former post-doctoral associate. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Walter)


By Kelsey Johnson, PVM Communications Intern

A research team in the department of Basic Medical Sciences (BMS) has identified a link between the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the development of liver cancer. Dr. Ourania Andrisani, professor of Basic Medical Sciences, leads the team of graduate research assistants Ahmed Diab,  Saravana Kailasam Mani, Dante’ Johnson and post-doctoral research associate Zhibin Cui, in collaboration with the research team of professor Philippe Merle from INSERM, France. Using molecular approaches including transfections, fluorescence-activated cell sorting, immunoblotting, and reverse transcription polymerase chain reactions (qRT-PCR), Dr. Andrisani’s team investigated the functional significance of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) re-expression in HBV-mediated cancer production in the liver.

The role of EpCAM-regulated intramembrane proteolysis (RIP), which involves processing of EpCAM into smaller protein fragments or peptides, was investigated in HBV replicating cells in vitro and in liver tumors from chronically HBV infected patients. The results indicate that chronic infection by the hepatitis B virus triggers a molecular mechanism that results in the development of poor prognosis liver cancer. Based on this mechanism, the researchers’ results suggest a novel strategy of therapeutic intervention to hinder development of virus-induced liver cancer.

Dr. Andrisani and her team conducted the study in collaboration with the Purdue Center for Cancer Research, Purdue University Libraries, and the Centre de Recherche en Cancérologie de Lyon in France. The study was funded through grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Institute National du Cancer. The research and conclusions reached in the study were published in May in the Journal of Hepatology.

Writer: Kelsey Johnson, PVM Communications Intern,

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