Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common type of cancer, and is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths each year. It involves a multi-step progression and is strongly associated with chronic inflammation induced by the intake of environmental toxins and/or viral infections (i.e., hepatitis B and C viruses). Although several genetic dysregulations are considered to be involved in disease progression, the detailed regulatory mechanisms are not well defined. Homeobox (Hox) genes that encode transcription factors with homeodomains control cell growth, differentiation, and morphogenesis in embryonic development. Recently, more aberrant expressions of Hox genes were found in a wide variety of human cancer, including HCC. In this review, we summarize the currently available evidence related to the role of Hox genes in the development of HCC. The objective is to determine the roles of this conserved transcription factor family and its potential use as a therapeutic target in future investigations.
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