Background: Transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) is a widely used and well-established treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, TACE loses its therapeutic efficacy when performed repeatedly, a phenomenon termed TACE refractoriness. c-Met is associated with malignant potential and with resistance to anti-tumor therapies in some kinds of cancers. Aims: The aim of this study is to investigate the clinical impact of TACE on c-Met expression with the aim of understanding the mechanism underlying TACE refractoriness. Methods: The effect of TACE on the c-Met expression level was investigated in vitro in HCC cell lines, and it was shown that c-Met expression is upregulated in HCC cell lines cultured under hypoxia and/or exposed to chemotherapeutic agents. The in vitro results were validated using 82 clinical samples of HCC with and without preoperative TACE treatment. Results: c-Met upregulation was observed significantly more frequently in clinical samples of HCC that were treated with preoperative TACE than in samples with no TACE treatment. Increased c-Met expression was significantly associated with poor prognosis. Furthermore, the incidence of c-Met-positive expression was significantly higher in TACE-refractory HCC samples. Conclusions: TACE treatment upregulates c-Met expression in HCC and the upregulated c-Met expression may be responsible for TACE refractoriness.
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