Research ArticleCancer

Chronic Activation of mTOR Complex 1 Is Sufficient to Cause Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Mice

Sci. Signal.  27 Mar 2012:
Vol. 5, Issue 217, pp. ra24
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2002739

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Insight into the Obesity and Cancer Connection

The activity of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex 1 (mTORC1) increases in response to nutrients. Using mice with increased mTORC1 signaling in the liver due to a liver-specific deficiency in an inhibitory component of the mTORC1 pathway, Menon et al. found that these mice spontaneously developed hepatocellular carcinoma, a frequently occurring and aggressive form of liver cancer that has few treatment options. Treating these mice with a pharmacological inhibitor of mTORC1 (rapamycin) before the appearance of tumors blocked the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, as well as the pathological changes that preceded tumor formation. mTORC1 signaling increases during obesity, a major risk factor for liver cancer; therefore, these results suggest a role for mTORC1 in linking environmental factors such as diet to the risk of developing certain types of cancers.