Research Fellows Directory
Professor Massimo Pinzani MD, PhD, FRCP
University College London
Hepatocellular carcinoma represents one of the most common cancers worldwide and is a frequent complication of the long clinical course of chronic liver diseases leading to cirrhosis. It is increasingly evident that the biology of this type of cancer is strictly related to the attempt of the liver tissue to regenerate in a microenvironment characterised by inflammation and scarring. The search for possible more effective treatments is highly dependent on the identification of druggable targets using experimental models. The available models employing cultures of cancer cells have the great limitation that the cells are cultivated on plastic dishes and this does not recapitulate the situation in the actual cancer in the liver of the patient. In order to provide a significant advancement we have worked to develop models which recapitulate more faithfully the situation typical of this type of cancer. To this aim, we have established a new model based on the decellularization of surgical sections of normal or cirrhotic human liver to obtain 3 dimensional scaffolds made of the same extracellular matrix of the normal or cirrhotic liver. These scaffolds are then repopulated with cancer cells and their biology, in basal conditions or after stimulation with growth factors know to have a role in the progression of the cancer, thoroughly evaluated at the cellular and molecular level.
The results of this work are highly promising and indicate that this new model could greatly improve the research of new treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma.