A team of Chinese researchers from Hong Kong has discovered a new mechanism that causes patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to develop liver cancer and proposed the use of a common fungicidal drug, Terbinafine, to prevent and treat it.
The results of the research, which has been led by the scientist and oncology professor Yu Jun of the University of Hong Kong, have been recently published in the North American scientific journal Science Translational Medicine.
According to experts, the fungicide drug Terbinafine, which has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, “may serve as a new therapeutic strategy in the prevention and treatment of liver cancer in patients with NAFLD,” a condition that affects between 30% and 40% of the adult population in the world.
The people suffering from obesity are more exposed to the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), thus, to liver cancer
The health authorities know that NAFLD, prevalent especially in those people who suffer from obesity, is a risk factor for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, which is a form of liver cancer. However, the molecular process by which this form of liver cancer develops from the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease remains unclear.
Dr. Yu Jun’s medical team analyzed the RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) from samples from patients suffering from either non-alcoholic fatty liver tissue or hepatocellular carcinoma, as well as from healthy liver tissue from the patients.
Studying the collected samples allowed the scientists to observe that there was an overabundance of the SQLE gene in the cancerous tissue.
The researchers also found that mice with hyperactive SQLE genes developed tumors more frequently. Also, they discovered that Terbinafine, a fungicidal drug, commonly used in the treatment of fungi, especially in the feet and nails, is significantly reducing the size of the tumors in liver cancer cases caused by the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.