1Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.
2Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.
The liver maintains a balance between immune tolerance and activation in its role as a filtration system. Chronic inflammation disrupts this immune microenvironment, thereby allowing for the rise and progression of cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a liver tumor generally diagnosed in the setting of chronic liver disease. When diagnosed early, the primary treatment is surgical resection, liver transplantation, or liver directed therapies. Unfortunately, patients with HCC often present at an advanced stage or with poor liver function, thereby limiting options. To further complicate matters, most systemic therapies are relatively limited and ineffective among patients with advanced disease. Recently, the IMbrave150 trial demonstrated that the combination of atezolizumab and bevacizumab was associated with better survival compared to sorafenib among patients with advanced HCC. As such, atezolizumab and bevacizumab is now recommended first-line therapy for these patients. Tumor cells work to create an immunotolerant environment by preventing the activation of stimulatory immunoreceptors and upregulating expression of proteins that bind inhibitory immunoreceptors. ICIs work to block these interactions and bolster the anti-tumor function of the immune system. We herein provide an overview of the use of ICIs in the treatment of HCC.