Efficacy of annexin A3 blockade in sensitizing hepatocellular carcinoma to sorafenib and regorafenib

Man Tong, Noélia Che, Lei Zhou, Steve T. Luk, Phillis W. Kau, Stella Chai, Elly S. Ngan, Chung Mau Lo, Kwan Man, Jin Ding, Terence K. Lee, Stephanie Ma

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Background & Aims: Advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a lethal malignancy with limited treatment options. Sorafenib is the only FDA-approved first-line targeted drug for advanced HCC, but its effect on patient survival is limited. Further, patients ultimately present with disease progression. A better understanding of the causes of sorafenib resistance, enhancing the efficacy of sorafenib and finding a reliable predictive biomarker are crucial to achieve efficient control of HCC. Methods: The functional effects of ANXA3 in conferring sorafenib resistance to HCC cells were analyzed in apoptotic and tumorigenicity assays. The role of ANXA3/PKCδ-mediated p38 signaling, and subsequently altered autophagic and apoptotic events, was assessed by immunoprecipitation, immunoblotting, immunofluorescence and transmission electron microscopy assays. The prognostic value of ANXA3 in predicting response to sorafenib was evaluated by immunohistochemistry. The therapeutic value of targeting ANXA3 to combat HCC with anti-ANXA3 monoclonal antibody alone or in combination with sorafenib/regorafenib was investigated ex vivo and in vivo. Results: ANXA3 conferred HCC cells with resistance to sorafenib. ANXA3 was found enriched in sorafenib-resistant HCC cells and patient-derived xenografts. Mechanistically, overexpression of ANXA3 in sorafenib-resistant HCC cells suppressed PKCδ/p38 associated apoptosis and activated autophagy for cell survival. Clinically, ANXA3 expression correlated positively with the autophagic marker LC3B in HCC and was associated with a worse overall survival in patients who went on to receive sorafenib treatment. Anti-ANXA3 monoclonal antibody therapy combined with sorafenib/regorafenib impaired tumor growth in vivo and significantly increased survival. Conclusion: Anti-ANXA3 therapy in combination with sorafenib/regorafenib represents a novel therapeutic strategy for HCC treatment. ANXA3 represents a useful predictive biomarker to stratify patients with HCC for sorafenib treatment. Lay summary: This study represents the most extensive pre-clinical characterization of anti-ANXA3 monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma to date. These results support the clinical trial development of anti-ANXA3 antibodies in combination with sorafenib/regorafenib. Further studies will optimize patient target selection and identify the best treatment combinations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)826-839
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Antibody therapy
  • ANXA3
  • Liver cancer
  • Regorafenib
  • Sorafenib resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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