The efficacy of cytokine-induced killer cell infusion as an adjuvant therapy for postoperative hepatocellular carcinoma patients

Ann Surg Oncol. 2013 Dec;20(13):4305-11. doi: 10.1245/s10434-013-3144-x. Epub 2013 Jul 27.


Background: Even after surgery, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has poor prognosis; adjuvant therapy is needed to improve effectively the outcome of HCC patients. We evaluated the efficacy of cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cell infusion as an adjuvant therapy for postoperative HCC patients.

Methods: A total of 410 patients were studied retrospectively (January 2002 to January 2007): 206 received surgery alone; 204 received surgery and at least four cycles of CIK cell transfusion (CIK group). Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analyses were used to explore differences in OS between two groups.

Results: The CIK group overall survival rates were significantly higher than that of the surgery-alone group (log-rank test; p = 0.0007). Multivariate survival analysis showed that CIK cell treatment was an independent prognostic factor. In subgroup analysis, patients who received ≥8 cycles of CIK cell transfusion exhibited significantly better survival than the <8 cycle group (p = 0.0272). There was no significant difference in overall survival in patients with ≤5-cm tumors between the CIK and surgery-alone groups (p = 0.7567). However, in patients with >5-cm tumors, the CIK group displayed significantly better overall survival than the surgery-alone group (p = 0.0002).

Conclusions: Postoperative immunotherapy with CIK cell transfusion may be an effective adjuvant treatment for improving the outcomes of HCC patients; >8 cycles of CIK cell transfusion may ensure that patients derive maximal benefits. Moreover, patients with large tumors might benefit more from CIK cell adjuvant treatment than patients with small tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cytokine-Induced Killer Cells / immunology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hepatectomy*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Liver Neoplasms / immunology
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Postoperative Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic