Programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1) /programmed death-ligand-1 (PD-L1) axis in hepatocellular carcinoma: prognostic and therapeutic perspectives

Mocan, T.; Sparchez, Z.; Craciun, R.; Bora, C.N.; Leucuta, D.C.

Clinical and Translational Oncology Official Publication of the Federation of Spanish Oncology Societies and of the National Cancer Institute of Mexico 21(6): 702-712


ISSN/ISBN: 1699-048X
PMID: 30387047
DOI: 10.1007/s12094-018-1975-4
Accession: 065890781

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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary neoplasia of the liver. There have been tremendous efforts in the development of therapeutic strategies in the last decades. As opposed to other cancer entities immunotherapy has just recently gained popularity in HCC. Among various immunotherapy approaches, programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1), and its ligand programmed death receptor ligand-1 (PD-L1) axis became one of the most promising pathway of the decade. The scientific interest in PD-1/PD-L1 axis is definitely justified due to: ability to detect PD-L1 expression in patients that underwent resection for HCC with prognostic values; the role of serum PD-L1 as a tool to identify early recurrences and to monitor treatment outcome; PD-1/PDL1 is a highly targetable pathway, with possible predictive markers, and with high clinical applicability that might help us in selecting a subgroup of HCC patients who are most likely to benefit from PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors. In this review we will first discuss the prognostic role of PD-1/PD-L1 as a bio-marker in various clinical scenarios. Afterwards we will critically analyse the recently published trials with PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors in HCC either alone or in combination with other treatment modalities. The higher focus will be on clinical rather than preclinical studies. Nevertheless, the strengths and limits of PD-1/PD-L1 axis in both prognosis and therapy of HCC will be highlighted.