Tumor microenvironment in primary liver tumors: A challenging role of natural killer cells

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In the last years, several studies have been focused on elucidate the role of tumor microenvironment (TME) in cancer development and progression. Within TME, cells from adaptive and innate immune system are one of the main abundant components. The dynamic interactions between immune and cancer cells lead to the activation of complex molecular mechanisms that sustain tumor growth. This important cross-talk has been elucidate for several kind of tumors and occurs also in patients with liver cancer, such as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA). Liver is well-known to be an important immunological organ with unique microenvironment. Here, in normal conditions, the rich immune-infiltrating cells cooperate with non-parenchymal cells, such as liver sinusoidal endothelial cells and Kupffer cells, favoring self-tolerance against gut antigens. The presence of underling liver immunosuppressive microenvironment highlights the importance to dissect the interaction between HCC and iCCA cells with immune infiltrating cells, in order to understand how this cross-talk promotes tumor growth. Deeper attention is, in fact, focused on immune-based therapy for these tumors, as promising approach to counteract the intrinsic anti-tumor activity of this microenvironment. In this review, we will examine the key pathways underlying TME cell-cell communications, with deeper focus on the role of natural killer cells in primary liver tumors, such as HCC and iCCA, as new opportunities for immune-based therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4900-4918
Number of pages19
JournalWorld Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - Sep 7 2020


  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Immune cells
  • Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma
  • Natural killer cells
  • Primary liver cancer
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


Dive into the research topics of 'Tumor microenvironment in primary liver tumors: A challenging role of natural killer cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this