FCF Funded Projects

Investigating immune checkpoint biomarkers in tissue and peripheral blood of patients with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma

Status: Completed

Timeframe: 2016 – 2019

Goal: Define the dominant immune checkpoint pathway in FLC

Principal investigator: Amy K. Kim, M.D., Assistant Professor

Tumor cells produce immune checkpoint molecules that suppress host immune response and allow evasion from immune responses. The discovery of drugs that block these immune checkpoints have revolutionized current cancer treatment. Anti-PD1 (programmed cell death protein 1) immunotherapy has shown benefit in many cancer types, but certain cancers have also shown strong resistance to this immunotherapy. It is unclear how fibrolamellar carcinoma would respond to different immune checkpoint blockades, including anti-PD1 therapy. In addition, it is unclear how circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood that have disseminated from the primary tumor induce anti-tumor immune response outside the tumor environment.

This study addressed these unknown issues by: 1) defining the dominant immune checkpoint pathway in fibrolamellar cancer and its interaction with the patient’s immune response in the tumor, and 2) determining how immune checkpoint markers are associated with circulating tumor cells in the peripheral blood, in comparison to the primary tumor. Understanding the immune checkpoint landscape in fibrolamellar carcinoma will guide the development of future immunotherapies for this deadly cancer.