1. The College of Life Science and Bioengineering, Beijing Jiaotong University, Beijing, China.
2. Department of Clinical Research Center, Dazhou Central Hospital, Dazhou, Sichuan province, China.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common cancers worldwide, with high incidence and mortality, accounting for approximately 90% of liver cancer. The development of HCC is a complex process involving the abnormal activation or inactivation of multiple signaling pathways. Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)/Small mothers against decapentaplegic (SMAD) signaling pathway regulates the development of HCC. TGF-β activates intracellular SMADs protein through membrane receptors, resulting in a series of biological cascades. Accumulating studies have demonstrated that TGF-β/SMAD signaling plays multiple regulatory functions in HCC. However, there is still controversy about the role of TGF-β/SMAD in HCC. Because it involves different pathogenic factors, disease stages, and cell microenvironment, as well as upstream and downstream relationships with other signaling pathways. This review will summary the regulatory mechanism of the TGF-β/SMAD signaling pathway in HCC, involving the regulation of different pathogenic factors, different disease stages, different cell populations, microenvironments, and the interaction with microRNAs. In addition, we also introduced small molecule inhibitors, therapeutic vaccines, and traditional Chinese medicine extracts based on targeting the TGF-β/SMAD signaling pathway, which will provide future research direction for HCC therapy targeting the TGF-β/SMAD signaling pathway.
Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma, TGF-β signaling, SMAD, Mechanism, Therapy