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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Herbal compound "Songyou Yin" reinforced the ability of interferon-alfa to inhibit the enhanced metastatic potential induced by palliative resection of hepatocellular carcinoma in nude mice

Xiu-Yan Huang13, Zi-Li Huang23, Lu Wang3, Yong-Hua Xu2, Xin-Yu Huang1, Kai-Xing Ai1, Qi Zheng1 and Zhao-You Tang3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Surgery, 6th People's Hospital of Shanghai, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai 200233, PR China

2 Department of Radiology, Central Hospital of Shanghai Xuhui District, Shanghai 200031, PR China

3 Liver Cancer Institute and Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, PR China; Key Laboratory for Carcinogenesis & Cancer Invasion, the Chinese Ministry of Education, Shanghai 200032, PR China

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:580  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-580

Published: 25 October 2010



Liver resection is a widely accepted treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Our previous clinical study showed that the rate of palliative resection was 34.0% (1958-2008, 2754 of 8107). However, the influence of palliative resection on tumor metastasis remains controversial. The present study was conducted to evaluate the effect of palliative resection on residual HCC and to explore interventional approaches.


Palliative resection was done in an orthotopic nude mice model of HCC (MHCC97H) with high metastatic potential. Tumor growth, invasion, metastasis, lifespan, and some molecular alterations were examined in vivo and in vitro. Mice that underwent palliative resection were treated with the Chinese herbal compound "Songyou Yin," interferon-alfa-1b (IFN-α), or their combination to assess their effects.


In the palliative resection group, the number of lung metastatic nodules increased markedly as compared to the sham operation group (14.3 ± 4.7 versus 8.7 ± 3.6, P < 0.05); tumor matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2) activity was elevated by 1.4-fold, with up-regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and down-regulation of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 2 (TIMP2). The sera of mice undergoing palliative resection significantly enhanced cell invasiveness by 1.3-fold. After treatment, tumor volume was 1205.2 ± 581.3 mm3, 724.9 ± 337.6 mm3, 507.6 ± 367.0 mm3, and 245.3 ± 181.2 mm3 in the control, "Songyou Yin," IFN-α, and combination groups, respectively. The combined therapy noticeably decreased the MMP2/TIMP2 ratio and prolonged the lifespan by 42.2%. Moreover, a significant (P < 0.001) reduction of microvessel density was found: 43.6 ± 8.5, 34.5 ± 5.9, 23.5 ± 5.6, and 18.2 ± 8.0 in the control and treatment groups, respectively.


Palliative resection-stimulated HCC metastasis may occur, in part, by up-regulation of VEGF and MMP2/TIMP2. "Songyou Yin" reinforced the ability of IFN-α to inhibit the metastasis-enhancing potential induced by palliative resection, which indicated its potential postoperative use in patients with HCC.