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Predicting Performance and Targets for Immunotherapy in Liver Cancer

By: Joshua Swore, PhD
Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Cancer research has revealed that numerous genes are differentially regulated in patients with liver cancer. Now, CDCA—cell division cycle–associated protein 7—has been identified as a target for immunotherapy in patients with liver cancer, according to research published in Frontiers in Immunology. “The past decade has witnessed unprecedented scientific breakthroughs, including immunotherapy, which has great potential in clinical applications for liver cancer,” said author Junhong Chen, MD, of the First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China, and colleagues. “Based on open-access data and bioinformatics algorithms, we systematically investigated the underlying molecules affecting liver cancer immunotherapy.”

The authors used the power of two different machine learning algorithms—the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator and support vector machine—to identify 16 differentially expressed genes associated with immunotherapy. Based on these identified genes, the group developed a logistic model that yields a combined score for patients to predict performance of immunotherapy for liver cancer. The investigators explained that patients with lower scores are more likely to respond better to immunotherapy than those with higher scores. The combined score was found to be negatively correlated with tumor-infiltrating immune cells, expression of immune checkpoints, and immunotherapy response–related pathways.

The researchers then used univariate Cox and Kaplan-Meier analyses to associate CDCA7 with patient survival. They found that CDCA7 was positively correlated with M0 macrophages but negatively correlated with M2 macrophages. Single-cell analysis from patients with liver cancer revealed that CDCA7 was primarily expressed in proliferating T cells and confirmed with immunohistochemistry. The authors were not surprised that the logistic model was positively correlated with M0 macrophages, indicating that CDCA7 may represent a prominent target for immunotherapy in patients with liver cancer.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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