British journal of cancer

Activation of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling pathway induces chemoresistance to interferon-alpha/5-fluorouracil combination therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma.

PMID 19401692


Type I IFN receptor type 2 (IFNAR2) expression correlates significantly with clinical response to interferon (IFN)-alpha/5-fluorouracil (5-FU) combination therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, some IFNAR2-positive patients show no response to the therapy. This result suggests the possibility of other factors, which would be responsible for resistance to IFN-alpha/5-FU therapy. The aim of this study was to examine the mechanism of anti-proliferative effects of IFN-alpha/5-FU therapy and search for a biological marker of chemoresistance to such therapy. Gene expression profiling and molecular network analysis were used in the analysis of non-responders and responders with IFNAR2-positive HCC. The Wnt/beta-catenin signalling pathway contributed to resistance to IFN-alpha/5-FU therapy. Immunohistochemical analysis showed positive epithelial cell adhesion molecule (Ep-CAM) expression, the target molecule of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling, only in non-responders. In vitro studies showed that activation of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling by glycogen synthesis kinase-3 inhibitor (6-bromoindirubin-3'-oxime (BIO)) induced chemoresistance to IFN-alpha/5-FU. BrdU-based cell proliferation ELISA and cell cycle analysis showed that concurrent addition of BIO and IFN-alpha/5-FU significantly to hepatoma cell cultures reduced the inhibitory effects of the latter two on DNA synthesis and accumulation of cells in the S-phase. The results indicate that activation of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling pathway induces chemoresistance to IFN-alpha/5-FU therapy and suggest that Ep-CAM is a potentially useful marker for resistance to such therapy, especially in IFNAR2-positive cases.