Purpose: To evaluate the efficacy of cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cell therapy in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Materials and methods: Randomized phase II and III trials on CIK cell-based therapy were identified by electronic searches using a combination of "hepatocellular carcinoma" and "cytokine-induced killer cells".
Results: The analysis showed significant survival benefit (one-year survival, p < 0.001; two-year survival, p < 0.001; median overall survival, p < 0.001) in favor of CIK-based therapy. Comparison of CIK group versus non-CIK group resulted in a significantly prolonged progression-free survival (PFS) (p < 0.01). A favored disease control rate (DCR) and overall response rate (ORR) were also observed in patients receiving CIK cell therapy (p < 0.01). Meanwhile, patients in the CIK group showed better quality of life (QoL), diminished HBV-DNA content and AFP level (p < 0.01). Comparing T-lymphocyte subsets in peripheral blood, the analysis showed the ratio of CD3+, CD4+, CD4+CD8+ and CD3+CD4+ T cells significantly increased in the CIK group, compared with the non-CIK group (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: CIK cell therapy demonstrated a significant superiority in prolonging the median overall survival, PFS, DCR, ORR and QoL of HCC patients. These results support further larger scale randomized controlled trials for HCC patients with or without the combination of other therapeutic methods.