Immunotherapy of Hepatocellular Carcinoma

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Abstract

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most deadly and rapidly evolving cancers worldwide. The current systemic treatment strategies in advanced tumor stages remain limited despite promising preclinical and early-phase clinical results for some compounds, highlighting an unmet clinical need. Since the majority of HCCs evolve in the background of a chronic inflammatory liver damage, HCCs can be considered a paradigm for inflammation-induced cancers, which renders immunotherapeutic strategies particularly promising for this tumor entity. Consequently, an improved understanding of key oncogenic and immune response signaling pathways as well as increasing appreciation of the diseased microenvironment for HCC initiation and progression has led to the development of a diverse range of immune-oncological interventions during the last decade. Besides oncolytic viruses, vaccines, or immune cell infusions, first results from early-phase clinical trials particularly encourage the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors against PD-1/PD-L1 and CTLA-4 for HCC. In this review, we delineate the current clinical and preclinical landscape of immunotherapies in HCC, critically discuss recent findings from clinical trials and outline future perspectives in the field of liver cancer.

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