Background and objective: Cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells have high anti-tumor activity for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Whether CIK cell therapy can eradicate residual cancer cells and prevent or postpone tumor relapse after transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) should be testified. This study was to evaluate the efficacy of CIK cell therapy combined with TACE on HCC.
Methods: A total of 146 consecutive patients with unresectable HCC were divided into combination group (72 patients treated with CIK cell therapy combined with TACE) and TACE group (74 patients treated only with TACE). The progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) were analyzed.
Results: The 6-month, 1-year, and 2-year PFS rates were 72.2%, 40.4%, 25.3% in combination group, and 34.8%, 7.7%, 2.6% in TACE group. The median time to progression was 11 months [95% confidence interval (CI), 8-14 months] in combination group and 5 months (95% CI, 4-7 months) in TACE group. The estimated 6-month, 1-year, and 2-year OS rates were 90.3%, 71.9%, 62.4% in combination group, and 74.6%, 42.8%, 18.8% in TACE group. The median OS was 31 months (95% CI, 27-35 months) in combination group and 10 months (95% CI, 7-13 months) in TACE group. The times of TACE, ECOG performance status, and CIK cell therapy were independent prognostic factors for PFS and OS.
Conclusion: Adjuvant immunotherapy with CIK cells could greatly improve the efficacy of TACE on HCC, and plays an important role in prolonging the PFS and OS of HCC patients after TACE.