Portal hypertension, the most important complication in patients with cirrhosis of the liver, is a serious and life-threatening disease for which there are few therapeutic options. Because angiogenesis is a pathological hallmark of portal hypertension, the goal of this study was to determine the effects of sorafenib-a potent inhibitor of proangiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR-2), platelet-derived growth factor receptor beta (PDGFR-beta), and Raf kinases-on splanchnic, intrahepatic, systemic, and portosystemic collateral circulations in two different experimental models of portal hypertension: rats with prehepatic portal hypertension induced by partial portal vein ligation and rats with intrahepatic portal hypertension and secondary biliary cirrhosis induced by bile duct ligation. Such a comprehensive approach is necessary for any translational research directed toward defining the efficacy and potential clinical application of new therapeutic agents. Sorafenib administered orally once a day for 2 weeks in experimental models of portal hypertension and cirrhosis effectively inhibited VEGF, PDGF, and Raf signaling pathways, and produced several protective effects by inducing an approximately 80% decrease in splanchnic neovascularization and a marked attenuation of hyperdynamic splanchnic and systemic circulations, as well as a significant 18% decrease in the extent of portosystemic collaterals. In cirrhotic rats, sorafenib treatment also resulted in a 25% reduction in portal pressure, as well as a remarkable improvement in liver damage and intrahepatic fibrosis, inflammation, and angiogenesis. Notably, beneficial effects of sorafenib against tissue damage and inflammation were also observed in splanchnic organs.
Conclusion: Taking into account the limitations of translating animal study results into humans, we believe that our findings will stimulate consideration of sorafenib as an effective therapeutic agent in patients suffering from advanced portal hypertension.