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posted on 29.04.2022, 05:32 authored by Wei-feng Hong, Mou-yuan Liu, Li Liang, Yang Zhang, Zong-juan Li, Keqi Han, Shi-suo Du, Yan-jie Chen, Li-heng Ma

Although checkpoint blockade is a promising approach for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), subsets of patients expected to show a response have not been established. As T cell-mediated tumor killing (TTK) is the fundamental principle of immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy, we established subtypes based on genes related to the sensitivity to TKK and evaluated their prognostic value for HCC immunotherapies.


Genes regulating the sensitivity of tumor cells to T cell-mediated killing (referred to as GSTTKs) showing differential expression in HCC and correlations with prognosis were identified by high-throughput screening assays. Unsupervised clustering was applied to classify patients with HCC into subtypes based on the GSTTKs. The tumor microenvironment, metabolic properties, and genetic variation were compared among the subgroups. A scoring algorithm based on the prognostic GSTTKs, referred to as the TCscore, was developed, and its clinical and predictive value for the response to immunotherapy were evaluated.


In total, 18 out of 641 GSTTKs simultaneously showed differential expression in HCC and were correlated with prognosis. Based on the 18 GSTTKs, patients were clustered into two subgroups, which reflected distinct TTK patterns in HCC. Tumor-infiltrating immune cells, immune-related gene expression, glycolipid metabolism, somatic mutations, and signaling pathways differed between the two subgroups. The TCscore effectively distinguished between populations with different responses to chemotherapeutics or immunotherapy and overall survival.


TTK patterns played a nonnegligible role in formation of TME diversity and metabolic complexity. Evaluating the TTK patterns of individual tumor will contribute to enhancing our cognition of TME characterization, reflects differences in the functionality of T cells in HCC and guiding more effective therapy strategies.