Trans-arterial chemoembolization as a loco-regional inducer of immunogenic cell death in hepatocellular carcinoma: Implications for immunotherapy.

David J. Pinato, Sam M. Murray, Alejandro Forner, Takahiro Kaneko, Petros Fessas, Pierluigi Toniutto, Beatriz Mínguez, Valentina Cacciato, Claudio Avellini, Alba Diaz, Rosemary J. Boyton, Daniel M. Altmann, Robert D. Goldin, Ayse U. Akarca, Teresa Marafioti, Francesco A. Mauri, Edoardo Casagrande, Federica Grillo, Edoardo Giannini, Sherrie BhooriVincenzo Mazzaferro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Modulation of adaptive immunity may underscore the efficacy of trans-arterial chemoembolization (TACE). We evaluated the influence of TACE on T-cell function by phenotypic lymphocyte characterization in samples of patients undergoing surgery with (T+) or without (T-) prior-TACE treatment. Methods We profiled intratumoral (IT), peritumoral (PT) and non-tumoral (NT) background tissue to evaluate regulatory CD4+/FOXP3+ (T-reg) and immune-exhausted CD8+/PD-1+ T-cells across T+ (n=58) and T- (n=61). We performed targeted transcriptomics and T-cell receptor sequencing in a restricted subset of samples (n=24) evaluated in relationship with the expression of actionable drivers of anti-cancer immunity including PD-L1, indoleamine 2,3 dehydrogenase (IDO-1), cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated protein 4 (CTLA-4), Lag-3, Tim-3 and CD163. Results We analyzed 119 patients resected (n=25, 21%) or transplanted (n=94, 79%) for Child-Pugh A (n=65, 55%) and Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stage A (n=92, 77%) hepatocellular carcinoma. T+ samples displayed lower IT CD4+/FOXP3+ (p=0.006), CD8+ (p=0.002) and CD8+/PD-1+ and NT CD8+/PD-1+ (p<0.001) compared with T-. Lower IT (p=0.005) and NT CD4+/FOXP3+ (p=0.03) predicted for improved recurrence-free survival. In a subset of samples (n=24), transcriptomic analysis revealed upregulation of a pro-inflammatory response in T+. T+ samples were enriched for IRF2 expression (p=0.01), an interferon-regulated transcription factor implicated in cancer immune-evasion. T-cell clonality and expression of PD-L1, IDO-1, CTLA-4, Lag-3, Tim-3 and CD163 was similar in T+ versus T-. Conclusions TACE is associated with lower IT density of immune-exhausted effector cytotoxic and T-regs, with significant upregulation of pro-inflammatory pathways. This highlights the pleiotropic effects of TACE in modulating the tumor microenvironment and strengthens the rationale for developing immunotherapy alongside TACE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e00331
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 30 2021


  • immunotherapy
  • liver neoplasms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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