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Current concepts of immune based treatments for patients with HCC: from basic science to novel treatment approaches


The recent approval of two immune checkpoint inhibitors for the treatment of malignant melanoma has sparked great interest by physicians and basic scientists searching for novel therapeutics for GI cancer. Chronic inflammation is recognised as a major risk factor for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and makes this type of cancer a potentially ideal target for an immune based treatment approach. Further evidence for a critical role of immune responses in patients with HCC is derived from the fact that immune signatures and profiles predict patients’ outcome as well as the fact that tumour-induced spontaneous antitumour immunity can be detected. In addition ablative therapies can lead to changes in the number, phenotype and function of different immune cell subsets, which correlate with patients’ survival. Various HCC-specific mouse models have been developed, which improve our understanding of hepatocarcinogenesis and tumour-immune cell interactions, and lead to the development of novel immune based treatment approaches, which are currently being evaluated in preclinical and in early clinical settings. Immune checkpoint blockade along with adoptive immune cell therapy and vaccine approaches are currently being evaluated either alone or in combination with other treatments. Here, we provide an overview for the rationale of immunotherapy in HCC, summarise ongoing studies and provide a perspective for immune based approaches in patients with HCC.


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