Acyclic retinoid in chemoprevention of hepatocellular carcinoma: Targeting phosphorylated retinoid X receptor-α for prevention of liver carcinogenesis

Masahito Shimizu, Yohei Shirakami, Kenji Imai, Koji Takai, Hisataka Moriwaki
Department of Medicine, Gifu University Graduate School of Medicine 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu 501-1194, Japan.
DOI: 10.4103/1477-3163.100398


One of the key features of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the high rate of intrahepatic recurrence that correlates with poor prognosis. Therefore, in order to improve the clinical outcome for patients with HCC, development of a chemopreventive agent that can decrease or delay the incidence of recurrence is a critical issue for urgent investigation. Acyclic retinoid (ACR), a synthetic retinoid, successfully improves HCC patient survival by preventing recurrence and the formation of secondary tumors. A malfunction of the retinoid X receptor-α (RXRα) due to phosphorylation by the Ras-MAPK signaling pathway plays a critical role in liver carcinogenesis, and ACR exerts chemopreventive effects on HCC development by inhibiting RXRα phosphorylation. Here, we review the relationship between retinoid signaling abnormalities and liver disease, the mechanisms of how RXRα phosphorylation contributes to liver carcinogenesis, and the detailed effects of ACR on preventing HCC development, especially based on the results of our basic and clinical research. We also outline the concept of “clonal deletion and inhibition” therapy, which is defined as the removal and inhibition of latent malignant clones from the liver before they expand into clinically detectable HCC, because ACR prevents the development of HCC by implementing this concept. Looking toward the future, we discuss “combination chemoprevention” using ACR as a key drug since it can generate a synergistic effect, and may thus be an effective new strategy for the prevention of HCC.

Keywords: Acyclic retinoid, chemoprevention, clonal deletion and inhibition, combination therapy, HCC, RXRα phosphorylation.