Profiling of syngeneic mouse HCC tumor models as a framework to understand anti-PD-1 sensitive tumor microenvironments

Hepatology. 2023 May 1;77(5):1566-1579. doi: 10.1002/hep.32707. Epub 2023 Apr 17.


Background and aims: The treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has been transformed by the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors. However, most patients with HCC do not benefit from treatment with immunotherapy. There is an urgent need to understand the mechanisms that underlie response or resistance to immunotherapy for patients with HCC. The use of syngeneic mouse models that closely recapitulate the heterogeneity of human HCC will provide opportunities to examine the complex interactions between cancer cells and nonmalignant cells in the tumor microenvironment.

Approach and results: We leverage a multifaceted approach that includes imaging mass cytometry and suspension cytometry by time of flight to profile the tumor microenvironments of the Hep53.4, Hepa 1-6, RIL-175, and TIBx (derivative of TIB-75) syngeneic mouse HCC models. The immune tumor microenvironments vary across these four models, and various immunosuppressive pathways exist at baseline in orthotopic liver tumors derived from these models. For instance, TIBx, which is resistant to anti-programmed cell death protein 1 therapy, contains a high proportion of "M2-like" tumor-associated macrophages with the potential to diminish antitumor immunity. Investigation of The Cancer Genome Atlas reveals that the baseline immunologic profiles of Hep53.4, RIL-175, and TIBx are broadly representative of human HCCs; however, Hepa 1-6 does not recapitulate the immune tumor microenvironment of the vast majority of human HCCs.

Conclusions: There is a wide diversity in the immune tumor microenvironments in preclinical models and in human HCC, highlighting the need to use multiple syngeneic HCC models to improve the understanding of how to treat HCC through immune modulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Mice
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor