Targeting FGFR4 inhibits hepatocellular carcinoma in preclinical mouse models

PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36713. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036713. Epub 2012 May 15.


The fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-FGF receptor (FGFR) signaling system plays critical roles in a variety of normal developmental and physiological processes. It is also well documented that dysregulation of FGF-FGFR signaling may have important roles in tumor development and progression. The FGFR4-FGF19 signaling axis has been implicated in the development of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) in mice, and potentially in humans. In this study, we demonstrate that FGFR4 is required for hepatocarcinogenesis; the progeny of FGF19 transgenic mice, which have previously been shown to develop HCCs, bred with FGFR4 knockout mice fail to develop liver tumors. To further test the importance of FGFR4 in HCC, we developed a blocking anti-FGFR4 monoclonal antibody (LD1). LD1 inhibited: 1) FGF1 and FGF19 binding to FGFR4, 2) FGFR4-mediated signaling, colony formation, and proliferation in vitro, and 3) tumor growth in a preclinical model of liver cancer in vivo. Finally, we show that FGFR4 expression is elevated in several types of cancer, including liver cancer, as compared to normal tissues. These findings suggest a modulatory role for FGFR4 in the development and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma and that FGFR4 may be an important and novel therapeutic target in treating this disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / prevention & control*
  • Cell Division
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Receptor, Fibroblast Growth Factor, Type 4 / genetics*
  • Receptor, Fibroblast Growth Factor, Type 4 / immunology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Fgfr4 protein, mouse
  • Receptor, Fibroblast Growth Factor, Type 4