Neddylation, a novel paradigm in liver cancer
Liver cancer is the sixth most prevailing cancer worldwide. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of primary liver cancer, has a rather heterogeneous pathogenesis making it highly refractive to current therapeutic approaches. Hence, HCC patients have a poor and gloomy prognosis making liver cancer the second leading cause of global cancer-related deaths. On this basis, a more global mechanism, such as post-translational modifications (PTMs) of proteins, may provide a valuable therapeutic approach for HCC clinical management by simultaneously regulating multiple disrupted signaling pathways. In the last years, the ubiquitin-like molecule NEDD8 (Neural precursor cell-expressed developmentally downregulated-8) conjugation pathway, neddylation, was shown to be aberrant in HCC patients with a significant positive correlation found among global levels of neddylation and poorer prognosis. Even though the best-established role for NEDD8 is the activation of ubiquitin E3 ligase family of cullin-RING ligases, the putative role for other NEDD8 substrates has been explored in recent years leading to the identification of novel neddylation targets in HCC. Importantly, treatment with the small pharmacological inhibitor Pevonedistat (MLN4924) (Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Takeda Pharmaceutical), currently in clinical trials for the treatment of some types of leukemias and other advanced solid tumors, was shown to suppress the outgrowth of hepatoma cells and liver cancer in pre-clinical mouse models. Overall, considering that the neddylation inhibitor Pevonedistat was well-tolerated and displayed a significant antitumor effect in pre-clinical models, combinatory pharmacological treatment based on Pevonedistat are highly recommended to enter clinical trials targeting advanced HCC.