Oncostatin M is overexpressed in NASH-related hepatocellular carcinoma and promotes cancer cell invasiveness and angiogenesis

J Pathol. 2022 May;257(1):82-95. doi: 10.1002/path.5871. Epub 2022 Mar 7.


Oncostatin M (OSM) is a pleiotropic cytokine of the interleukin (IL)-6 family that contributes to the progression of chronic liver disease. Here we investigated the role of OSM in the development and progression of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)/non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The role of OSM was investigated in (1) selected cohorts of NAFLD/NASH HCC patients, (2) liver cancer cells exposed to human recombinant OSM or stably transfected to overexpress human OSM, (3) murine HCC xenografts, and (4) a murine NASH-related model of hepatic carcinogenesis. OSM was found to be selectively overexpressed in HCC cells of NAFLD/NASH patients, depending on tumor grade. OSM serum levels, barely detectable in patients with simple steatosis or NASH, were increased in patients with cirrhosis and more evident in those carrying HCC. In this latter group, OSM serum levels were significantly higher in the subjects with intermediate/advanced HCCs and correlated with poor survival. Cell culture experiments indicated that OSM upregulation in hepatic cancer cells contributes to HCC progression by inducing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and increased invasiveness of cancer cells as well as by inducing angiogenesis, which is of critical relevance. In murine xenografts, OSM overexpression was associated with slower tumor growth but an increased rate of lung metastases. Overexpression of OSM and its positive correlation with the angiogenic switch were also confirmed in a murine model of NAFLD/NASH-related hepatocarcinogenesis. Consistent with this, analysis of liver specimens from human NASH-related HCCs with vascular invasion showed that OSM was expressed by liver cancer cells invading hepatic vessels. In conclusion, OSM upregulation appears to be a specific feature of HCC arising on a NAFLD/NASH background, and it correlates with clinical parameters and disease outcome. Our data highlight a novel pro-carcinogenic contribution for OSM in NAFLD/NASH, suggesting a role of this factor as a prognostic marker and a putative potential target for therapy. © 2022 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

Keywords: EMT; NAFLD; NASH; angiogenesis; hepatocellular carcinoma; invasiveness; metastasis; oncostatin M.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Mice
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / genetics
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / pathology
  • Oncostatin M*


  • Oncostatin M