NF-κB functions as a tumour promoter in inflammation-associated cancer

Eli Pikarsky*, Rinnat M. Porat, Ilan Stein, Rinat Abramovitch, Sharon Amit, Shafika Kasem, Elena Gutkovich-Pyest, Simcha Uriell-Shoval, Eithan Galun, Yinon Ben-Neriah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The causes of sporadic human cancer are seldom recognized, but it is estimated that carcinogen exposure and chronic inflammation are two important underlying conditions for tumour development, the latter accounting for approximately 20% of human cancer1. Whereas the causal relationship between carcinogen exposure and cancer has been intensely investigated 2, the molecular and cellular mechanisms linking chronic inflammation to tumorigenesis remain largely unresolved1. We proposed that activation of the nuclear factor κK (NF-κB), a hallmark of inflammatory responses3 that is frequently detected in tumours 4,5, may constitute a missing link between inflammation and cancer. To test this hypothesis, we studied the Mdr2-knockout mouse strain, which spontaneously develops cholestatic hepatitis followed by hepatocellular carcinoma6, a prototype of inflammation-associated cancer 7. We monitored hepatitis and cancer progression in Mdr2-knockout mice, and here we show that the inflammatory process triggers hepatocyte NF-κB through upregulation of tumour-necrosis factor-α (TNFα) in adjacent endothelial and inflammatory cells. Switching off NF-κB in mice from birth to seven months of age, using a hepatocyte-specific inducible IκB-super-repressor transgene, had no effect on the course of hepatitis, nor did it affect early phases of hepatocyte transformation. By contrast, suppressing NF-κB inhibition through anti-TNFα treatment or induction of IκB-super-repressor in later stages of tumour development resulted in apoptosis of transformed hepatocytes and failure to progress to hepatocelular carcinoma. Our studies thus indicate that NF-κB is essential for promoting inflammation-associated cancer, and is therefore a potential target for cancer prevention in chronic inflammatory diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-466
Number of pages6
Issue number7007
StatePublished - 23 Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes


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