Mediclal Oncology Branch, NIH/NCI.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the 3rd most common cancer worldwide. It is an inflammation-associated cancer. Multiple investigators have demonstrated that analysis of the tumor microenvironment may be used to predict patient outcome indicating the importance of local immune responses in this disease. In contrast to other types of cancer, in which surgery, radiation and systemic cytotoxic chemotherapies dominate the treatment options, in HCC loco-regional treatments are widely applied. Such treatments induce rapid tumor cell death and anti-tumor immune responses, which may favor or impair patients' outcome. Recent immunotherapy studies demonstrating promising results include trials evaluating intra-tumoral injection of an oncolytic virus expressing GM-CSF, glypican-3 targeting treatments and anti-CTLA4 treatment. While some of these novel approaches may provide benefit as single agents, there is a clear opportunity in HCC to evaluate these in combination with the standard modalities to more effectively harness the immune response.