Natural killer (NK) cells have a potential role in immune surveillance of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Self-recognition of human leukocyte antigens (HLA) through killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) confers competence to NK cells—a process termed “licensing.” We investigated the effect of NK-cell licensing on the susceptibility of patients to HCC recurrence. A total of 170 Japanese patients with HCC who underwent primary curative hepatectomy between 1996 and 2010 were enrolled in this study. The median follow-up period was 5.4 years. We analyzed their KIR-HLA genotypes with sequence-specific polymorphism-based typing and estimated their susceptibility to HCC recurrence by performing propensity score–matching analyses. The presence of KIR2DL1-C2, KIR2DL2-C1, KIR3DL1-BW4, or KIR3DL2-A3/11, functional compound genotypes that intrinsically license NK cells, did not markedly affect HCC recurrence. However, the multiplicity of those compound KIR-HLA genotypes was significantly associated with the HCC recurrence rate, i.e., the cumulative risk of recurrence in patients with at least three compound genotypes was significantly lower than that in patients with one or two compound genotypes, suggesting that the effect of NK-cell licensing on HCC recurrence is quantitative. Patients at high risk of HCC recurrence after curative hepatectomy could be identified by KIR-HLA genotyping. Cancer Immunol Res; 2(12); 1–6. ©2014 AACR.
- Received May 12, 2014.
- Revision received July 16, 2014.
- Accepted August 2, 2014.
- ©2014 American Association for Cancer Research.