The role of cytokines in the different stages of hepatocellular carcinoma

Noe Rico Montanari, Chimaobi M. Anugwom, Andre Boonstra, Jose D. Debes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the primary form of liver cancer and a leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Early detection remains the most effective strategy in HCC management. However, the spectrum of underlying liver diseases preceding HCC, its genetic complexity, and the lack of symptomatology in early stages challenge early detection. Regardless of underlying etiology, unresolved chronic inflammation is a common denominator in HCC. Hence, many inflammatory molecules, including cytokines, have been investigated as potential biomarkers to predict different stages of HCC. Soluble cytokines carry cell-signaling functions and are easy to detect in the bloodstream. However, its biomarkers’ role remains limited due to the dysregulation of immune parameters related to the primary liver process and their ability to differentiate carcinogenesis from the underlying disease. In this review, we discuss and provide insight on cytokines with clinical relevance for HCC differentiating those implicated in tumor formation, early detection, advanced disease, and response to therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4876
Issue number19
StatePublished - Sep 29 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program, NIH-NCI R21 CA215883-01A1 and University of Minnesota AIRP grant, all to J.D. N.R.M., A.B., and J.D. participate in the European-Latin American ESCALON consortium, funded by the EU Horizon2020 program, project number 825510.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Advanced disease
  • Cytokines
  • Formation
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Prognosis
  • Response to therapy


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