The cGAS-STING pathway is a therapeutic target in a preclinical model of hepatocellular carcinoma

Oncogene. 2020 Feb;39(8):1652-1664. doi: 10.1038/s41388-019-1108-8. Epub 2019 Nov 18.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary liver cancer, and the incidence of HCC is increasing. Recently, cancer immunotherapy has emerged as an efficient treatment against some cancers. Here we have used a mouse model of mutagen-induced HCC to explore the therapeutic usefulness of targeting the DNA-activated STING pathway in HCC. STING-deficient mice exhibited unaltered initial development of HCC, but had higher number of large tumors at late stages of disease. In the liver of STING-deficient HCC mice, we observed reduced levels of phospho-STAT1, autophagy, and cleaved caspase3. These responses were activated in the liver by treatment with a cyclic dinucleotide (CDN) STING agonist. Importantly, CDN treatment of mice after HCC development efficiently reduced tumor size. Initiation of CDN treatment at an even later stage of disease to allow HCC detection by MR scanning revealed that the majority of tumors regressed in response to CDN, but new tumors were also detected, which were unresponsive to CDN treatment. Overall, the modulation of the STING pathway affects the development of HCC, and holds promise for a use as a treatment of this disease, most likely in combination with other immunomodulatory treatments such as PD1 inhibitors or with standard of care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / immunology
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / agonists
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy*
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects


  • Membrane Proteins
  • STING1 protein, human
  • Nucleotidyltransferases
  • cGAS protein, human