A team of researchers led by an Indian-origin scientist has claimed to have identified a new tumour-promoting gene that may cause liver cancer.

The researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, who have found a higher level of the new oncogene — LSF — in over 90 per cent of liver cancer patients, hoped that the findings could lead to an effective therapy for inhibition of cancer growth.

“Researchers have been studying the role of LSF for over 25 years in fields outside of cancer, but our work is the first demonstration that the gene plays an important role in liver cancer,” said lead author Devanand Sarkar.

In the study, published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers employing a series of molecular studies identified LSF and observed its levels in liver cancer patients.

Further, the team found that LSF plays an important role in the development and progression of liver cancer and that inhibiting LSF can reverse the aggressive properties of human liver cancer cells.

They have also identified the molecular mechanism by which LSF promotes the growth of tumours.

“We show a novel mechanism of liver cancer development by LSF that provides us with fresh insight into the complex etiology and mechanism of carcinogenesis process, he said.

“Because LSF is increased in such a high percentage of patients, it could be a potential target for therapeutic intervention“.

According to Mr. Sarkar, LSF is a transcription factor, which means it can directly regulate the expression of genes.

The team has identified specific genes, such as osteopontin, that are directly induced by LSF.

“Osteopontin is a key player in regulating tumour development and progression and the identification of a master regulator of osteopontin, such as LSF, is a very important discovery,” said Mr. Sarkar.

“Analysis of LSF level in biopsy material may one day be used as a prognostic marker for HCC. Clinicians may be able to design treatment strategies based on the LSF level of a patient.”

Hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC or liver cancer, is the fifth most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world.