RFA strongly modulates the immune system and anti-tumor immune responses in metastatic liver patients

Int J Oncol. 2008 Feb;32(2):481-90.


Radiofrequency tumor ablation (RFA) is a therapeutic modality for liver cancer patients inducing localized tumor necrosis with maximal preservation of normal liver parenchyma. We investigated the immunomodulatory effects exerted by RFA treatment in liver cancer patients with metastatic liver lesions (13 patients) or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) (4 patients). Analysis of lymphocyte subsets by flow cytometry revealed that after RFA, CD3+ T cells, in particular CD4+, were decreased in metastatic cancer patients, while no change was observed in HCC patients. Moreover, RFA induced trafficking of naïve and memory CD62L+ T cells from circulation to tissues. When characterizing the function of T cells, proliferative response to PHA was strongly increased after 48 h from RFA in metastatic cancer patients. Furthermore, T cells produced IFN-gamma in response to the tumor associated MUC1 antigen. In contrast, humoral immune responses against tumor antigens such as MUC1 and HCV proteins were unaffected by RFA treatment, although increase of circulating B cells was observed only in metastatic cancer patients. These results indicate that RFA application can exert an activating effect on the immune system in metastatic cancer patients, favouring trafficking of lymphocyte subsets and enhancing tumor antigen specific cellular immune responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / radiotherapy*
  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune System / radiation effects*
  • Liver Extracts
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Liver Extracts