Hepatoblastoma (HB) is the most common liver cancer in children. Recurrence of HB after chemotherapy and surgery is frequent among high-risk patients and is associated with chemoresistance. Immunotherapy may improve poor treatment outcomes in HB patients. Cytotoxic leukocytes of the innate and adaptive immune system including different populations of cytotoxic T cells play a major role in fighting developing tumors. In this setting, monoclonal antibodies may be employed to specifically direct immune responses toward tumor cells. We addressed this issue by using humanized antibodies that recognize the cell surface molecule EpCAM (CD326, overexpressed in hepatic tumor cells) to enhance immune responses against HB. EpCAM was constantly expressed on HB cells and its expression was independent of previous therapy based on the DNA-damaging agent cisplatin. Co-culture assays performed with two well-described HB cell lines and tumor tissue cultures demonstrated that tumor cell lysis by γδ T cells can be dramatically augmented by applying EpCAM-specific monoclonal antibodies. These data emphasize the value of antitumor immune responses and encourage adapting immunotherapeutic regimens to improve the outcome of high risk HB.
Keywords: EpCAM (CD326); PBMC; hepatoblastoma; immunotherapy; therapeutic antibodies; γδ T cells.