Recent advances in immunotherapy for hepatocellular cancer

Swiss Med Wkly. 2007 Feb 10;137(5-6):83-90. doi: 10.4414/smw.2006.11077.


There is a continuing need for innovative, alternative therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Immunotherapy of cancer is attractive because of the exquisite specificity of the immune response. Activation of an HCC-specific response can be accomplished by strategies targeting tumour-associated antigens (for example: alpha fetoprotein (AFP)) or viral antigens in those patients infected with hepatitis B or C. Uncharacterised and mutated antigens can also be targeted with whole tumour cell or tumour lysate-based immunisation strategies. Viral vectors coding for genes which make the patient's tumour immunogenic can allow the immune system to naturally evolve specificity against immunogenic target antigens. Strategies which have been tested in human clinical trials include adoptive transfer of lymphocytes, cytokine injections, autologous tumour-pulsed dendritic cells (DC) as well as AFP-derived peptides in adjuvant and pulsed onto autologous DC. These trials, testing novel immune-based interventions in HCC subjects, have resulted in immunological responses and some have impacted recurrence and survival of HCC subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cytokines / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Immunotherapy / trends
  • Liver Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cytokines