Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a worldwide health problem. Currently, there is no effective clinical therapeutic strategy for HCC. Smoking is associated with several malignant diseases including cancers. Experimental approach: However, the impact of smoking on HCC is still unresolved. Retrospectively reviewed HCC patients diagnosed between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2015 at Taipei Medical University-Shuang Ho Hospital (Ministry of Health and Welfare). We found that smoking was associated with a poor prognosis, especially recurrence and patient survival after curative surgery using a clinicopathological analysis. Results: Our univariate and multivariate analyses showed that the α7-nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7-nAChR) was an oncogene and risk factor for post-resection recurrence. The α7-nAChR was overexpressed in HCC tissues compared to their non-tumor counterparts. Silencing the α7-nAChR reduced the viability of HCC cells, suppressed cellular proliferation, attenuated migration and invasion, and diminished the tumor’s sphere-formation ability, with concurrent downregulation of expression levels of the TGR5, p-JAK2, p-STAT3 (Tyr705/Ser727), RhoA, ROCK1, MMP2, and MMP9 proteins. Furthermore, a positive correlation was found between α7-nAChR and JAK2 expressions (p
= 0.01) in HCC specimens, as well as their membranous co-localization. Conclusion: Together, we demonstrated that the α7-nAChR may be an independent prognosticator of the progression and prognosis of HCC patients. These findings suggest that the α7-nAChR drives the progression and recurrence of HCC through JAK2/STAT3 signaling and is a novel target for anti-HCC therapy.
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