Patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are characterized by a weak T-cell response to their tumor, and chronic carriers of hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus have a poor T-cell response against the virus. These inadequate T-cell responses may be due to insufficient activation of the T cells by dendritic cells (DCs). Because lymph nodes (LNs) are the primary site of antigen-specific T-cell activation, we hypothesized that hepatic LNs of patients with HCC and/or chronic viral hepatitis might have aberrant compositions of their DC populations. To address this hypothesis, we enumerated mature myeloid DCs (MDCs) and plasmacytoid DCs (PDCs) in hepatic LNs by quantitative immunohistochemistry. Patients with HCC and chronic viral hepatitis and patients with chronic viral hepatitis without HCC were compared with patients with liver inflammation of nonviral etiology and with organ donors with healthy livers. The numbers of PDCs and mature MDCs in hepatic LNs of patients with chronic viral hepatitis did not differ from those of patients with liver inflammation of nonviral etiology nor from individuals with healthy livers. However, hepatic LNs of patients with HBV or HCV infection complicated by HCC showed a 1.5-fold reduction in numbers of mature MDCs and a 4-fold increase in numbers of PDCs in their T-cell areas compared with those of patients with viral hepatitis only (P < .01). In conclusion, patients with HCC have an aberrant composition of the DC population in their hepatic LNs. This may be one of the causes of the inadequate T-cell response against HCC in these patients.

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Keywords Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Myeloid dendritic cell, Plasmacytoid dendritic cell
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Journal Human Pathology
Tang, T.J, Vukosavljevic, D, Janssen, H.L.A, Binda, R.S, Mancham, S, Tilanus, H.W, … Kwekkeboom, J. (2006). Aberrant composition of the dendritic cell population in hepatic lymph nodes of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. Human Pathology, 37(3), 332–338. doi:10.1016/j.humpath.2005.11.007