Copyright ©The Author(s) 2015. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Hepatol. Aug 18, 2015; 7(17): 2080-2090
Published online Aug 18, 2015. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v7.i17.2080
Immunology of hepatocellular carcinoma
Meenakshi Sachdeva, Yogesh K Chawla, Sunil K Arora
Meenakshi Sachdeva, Sunil K Arora, Department of Immunopathology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh 160012, India
Yogesh K Chawla, Department of Hepatology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh 160012, India
Author contributions: Arora SK conceived, read, and edited the manuscript; Chawla YK provided the clinical information and read the manuscript; Sachdeva M collected the literature, and compiled and wrote the manuscript.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors have no conflicts of interest related to the manuscript.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Sunil K Arora, PhD, Professor, Department of Immunopathology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Sector:12, Chandigarh 160012, India.
Telephone: +91-172-2755192 Fax: +91-172-2744401
Received: March 31, 2015
Peer-review started: April 1, 2015
First decision: April 23, 2015
Revised: May 28, 2015
Accepted: July 18, 2015
Article in press: July 22, 2015
Published online: August 18, 2015

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is primarily a malignancy of the liver, advancing from a damaged, cirrhotic liver to HCC. Globally, HCC is the sixth most prevalent cancer and the third-most prevalent reason for neoplastic disease-related deaths. A diverse array of infiltrating immunocytes regulates the development and progression of HCC, as is the case in many other cancers. An understanding of the various immune components during HCC becomes necessary so that novel therapeutic strategies can be designed to combat the disease. A dysregulated immune system (including changes in the number and/or function of immune cells, cytokine levels, and the expression of inhibitory receptors or their ligands) plays a key role in the development of HCC. Alterations in either the innate or adaptive arm of the immune system and cross-talk between them make the immune system tolerant to tumors, leading to disease progression. In this review, we have discussed the status and roles of various immune effector cells (e.g., dendritic cells, natural killer cells, macrophages, and T cells), their cytokine profile, and the chemokine-receptor axis in promoting or impeding HCC.

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma, Immune cells, Immune-dysregulation, Adaptive immunity, Innate immunity

Core tip: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a heterogeneous disease caused by multiple factors, and has its immunopathogenesis complicated by the paradoxical role of various immune cells. This review provides a comprehensive insight into the immunological mechanisms that control hepatocarcinogenesis. A better and fuller understanding of the precise function of each cellular subset may open new avenues for the treatment of HCC.