Peripheral T Cell Subpopulations as a Potential Surrogate Biomarker during Atezolizumab plus Bevacizumab Treatment for Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Cancers (Basel). 2024 Mar 28;16(7):1328. doi: 10.3390/cancers16071328.


The therapeutic benefits of the immunotherapeutic combination of atezolizumab and bevacizumab (Atez/Bev) in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) vary. Therapeutic biomarkers might help improve outcomes for HCC patients receiving Atez/Bev therapy. The role of systemic immune profiles in HCC progression also remains unclear. This study aimed to evaluate the status and dynamics of peripheral T cell subpopulations in HCC patients receiving Atez/Bev treatment and to explore biomarkers predictive of a therapeutic response. We enrolled 83 unresectable advanced HCC patients who commenced Atez/Bev treatment at our hospital between October 2020 and June 2022. Peripheral T cell subpopulations in peripheral blood mononuclear cells at baseline and 3 weeks post-treatment were investigated using flow cytometry and compared with those in control samples from 18 healthy individuals. We retrospectively analyzed the association between peripheral T cell subpopulation profiles and clinical outcomes. Baseline peripheral T cell subpopulations could be profiled in 70 patients with sufficient cell counts, among whom 3-week subpopulations could be evaluated in 51 patients. Multivariate analysis showed that a high baseline proportion of CD8+ central memory T (TCM) cells was independently associated with longer progression-free survival (PFS). Further, overall survival (OS) was significantly prolonged in patients with increased CD8+ effector memory T (TEM) cell proportions. In conclusion, TCM proportion at baseline might be a good indicator of the efficacy of Atez/Bev therapy. Furthermore, observation of increasing TEM proportions might be an early predictor of the potential clinical benefits of treatment.

Keywords: atezolizumab plus bevacizumab; central memory T cell; effector memory T cell; hepatocellular carcinoma; peripheral T cell subpopulation.