The immunological and metabolic landscape in primary and metastatic liver cancer

Li, X., Ramadori, P., Pfister, D., Seehawer, M., Zender, L., Heikenwalder, M. (2021). Nat Rev Cancer 21, 541-557.

DOI:10.1038/s41568-021-00383-9(link is external)


The liver is the sixth most common site of primary cancer in humans, and generally arises in a background of cirrhosis and inflammation. Moreover, the liver is frequently colonized by metastases from cancers of other organs (particularly the colon) because of its anatomical location and organization, as well as its unique metabolic and immunosuppressive environment. In this Review, we discuss how the hepatic microenvironment adapts to pathologies characterized by chronic inflammation and metabolic alterations. We illustrate how these immunological or metabolic changes alter immunosurveillance and thus hinder or promote the development of primary liver cancer. In addition, we describe how inflammatory and metabolic niches affect the spreading of cancer metastases into or within the liver. Finally, we review the current therapeutic options in this context and the resulting challenges that must be surmounted.