Glypican-3 (GPC3), a carcinoembryonic antigen, is an ideal target for anticancer immunotherapy against hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In this study, we attempted to compare the induction of the GPC3-specific T-cell-mediated immune response after locoregional therapies in HCC patients and tumor-bearing mice. Twenty-seven HCC patients treated with locoregional therapies, including radiofrequency ablation (RFA), surgical resection and transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE), were prospectively enrolled in this study. Additionally, we performed RFA experiments using a mouse model. GPC3-specific T-cell response was investigated pre-treatment and post-treatment by an interferon-γ enzyme-linked immunospot assay using peripheral blood mononuclear cells from HCC patients and lymph node cells from tumor-bearing mice. Circulating GPC3-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) were increased in 5 of 9 patients after RFA and in 4 of 9 patients after TACE, but in only 1 of 9 patients after surgical resection. All 7 patients with GPC3-expressing HCCs exhibited an increase in GPC3-specific CTLs after RFA or TACE, whereas none of the 7 patients did after surgical resection. The number of increased GPC3-specific CTLs after RFA was significantly larger than that after surgical resection (P=0.023). Similarly, the frequency of GPC3-specific CTLs after RFA was significantly greater than that after surgical resection in the mouse model (P=0.049). We validated for the first time the stronger effect on the immune system brought by RFA compared with surgical resection for HCC patients and tumor-bearing mice. Combined treatment of RFA and immunotherapy is a reasonable strategy against HCC.
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