Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common causes of cancer-related death worldwide. Liver cancer is generally related to hepatitis B or C infection and cirrhosis. Usually, patients with HCC are asymptomatic and are diagnosed at late stages when surgical treatment is no longer suitable. Limited treatment options for patients with advanced HCC are a major concern. Therefore, there is an urge for finding novel therapies to treat HCC. Liver cancer is highly heterogeneous and involved deregulation of several signaling pathways. Wnt/β-catenin pathway is frequently upregulated in HCC and it is implicated in maintenance of tumor initiating cells, drug resistance, tumor progression, and metastasis. A great effort in developing selective drugs to target components of the β-catenin pathway with anticancer activity is underway but only a few of them have reached phase I clinical trials. We aim to review the role of β-catenin pathway on hepatocarcinogenesis and liver cancer stem cell maintenance. We also evaluated the use of small molecules targeting the Wnt/β-catenin pathway with potential application for treatment of HCC.

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Published in World Journal of Gastroenterology, v. 22, issue 2, p. 823-832.

© 2016 Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.

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