Immunotherapeutic approaches for hepatocellular carcinoma

Vito Longo, Antonio Gnoni, Andrea Casadei Gardini, Salvatore Pisconti, Antonella Licchetta, Mario Scartozzi, Riccardo Memeo, Vincenzo Ostilio Palmieri, Giuseppe Aprile, Daniele Santini, Patrizia Nardulli, Nicola Silvestris and Oronzo Brunetti _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:33897-33910. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.15406

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Vito Longo1,*, Antonio Gnoni2,*, Andrea Casadei Gardini3, Salvatore Pisconti1, Antonella Licchetta2, Mario Scartozzi4, Riccardo Memeo5, Vincenzo Ostilio Palmieri6, Giuseppe Aprile7, Daniele Santini8, Patrizia Nardulli9, Nicola Silvestris10 and Oronzo Brunetti10

1 Medical Oncology Unit, Hospital of Taranto, Taranto, Italy

2 Medical Oncology Unit, Hospital of Gallipoli, Gallipoli, Italy

3 Department of Medical Oncology, Istituto Scientifico Romagnolo per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori IRCCS, Meldola, FC, Italy

4 Department of Medical Oncology, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Monserrato, CA, Italy

5 Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Ospedale Regionale “F.Miulli”, Strada Pr. Acquaviva - Santeramo, Bari, Italy

6 Department of Biomedical Sciences and Human Oncology, Clinica Medica “A. Murri”, University of Bari Medical School, Bari, Italy

7 Department of Oncology, San Bortolo Hospital ULSS 6, Vicenza, Italy

8 Medical Oncology Unit, University Campus Biomedico, Rome, Italy

9 Pharmacy Unit, National Cancer Research Centre, Istituto Tumori Giovanni Paolo II, Bari, Italy

10 Medical Oncology Unit, National Cancer Research Centre, Istituto Tumori Giovanni Paolo II, Viale Orazio Flacco, Bari, Italy

* These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Oronzo Brunetti, email:

Keywords: adoptive immunotherapy; dendritic cell vaccination; hepatocellular carcinoma; immunotherapy; immune checkpoint

Received: December 08, 2016 Accepted: February 01, 2017 Published: February 16, 2017


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a cancer with a high mortality rate due to the fact that the diagnosis usually occurs at anadvanced stage. Even in case of curative surgical treatment, recurrence is common. Sorafenib and regorafenib are the only therapeutic agents that have been demonstrated to be effective in advanced HCC, thus novel curative approaches are urgently needed. Recent studies focus on the role of immune system in HCC. In fact, the unique immune response in the liver favors tolerance, which can represent a real challenge for conventional immunotherapy in these patients. Spontaneous immune responses against tumor antigens have been detected, and new immune therapies are under investigation: dendritic cell vaccination, immune-modulator strategy, and immune checkpoint inhibition. In recent years different clinical trials examining the use of immunotherapy to treat HCC have been conducted with initial promising results. This review article will summarize the literature data concerning the potential immunotherapeutic approaches in HCC patients.

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