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Cancer. 2012 Aug 15;118(16):3984-92. doi: 10.1002/cncr.26726. Epub 2011 Dec 16.

A study of circulating interleukin 10 in prognostication of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma.

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State Key Laboratory in Oncology in South China, Sir Y. K. Pao Center for Cancer, Department of Clinical Oncology, Hong Kong Cancer Institute and Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.



The level of circulating interleukin 10 (IL-10) is elevated in a proportion of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The objective of the current study was to evaluate the prognostic significance of serum the IL-10 level in patients with unresectable HCC.


Patients with unresectable HCC who provided serum at the time of diagnosis were enrolled prospectively in the study. The level of circulating IL-10 in serum samples was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The association of the IL-10 level with overall survival was evaluated in relation to sociodemographics, liver function, hepatitis B viral load, and tumor staging.


In total, 222 patients were recruited; of these, 82.4% were positive for hepatitis B virus surface antigen, and 65.8% had Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stage C disease. The mean log IL-10 level was 1.1 pg/mL, and 146 patients had an IL-10 level >1 pg/mL (high IL-10 group). The high IL-10 group had worse overall survival than the low IL-10 group (5.0 months vs 14.9 months; hazard ratio, 2.192; P < .0001). The IL-10 level was associated with worse hepatic function and with a high alanine transaminase (ALT) level. The IL-10 level remained an independent prognostic factor (hazard ratio, 1.824; P = .0005) after adjustment for sociodemographics, tumor staging, treatment, Child-Pugh stage, and ALT level. The IL-10 level also subdivided patients into 2 populations with distinct survival (10.2 months vs 3.5 months; P = .0027).


The serum IL-10 level was identified as an independent prognostic factor for unresectable HCC. The current findings suggested that an elevated IL-10 level may be related to hepatic injury caused by cirrhotic processes rather than tumor load. The authors concluded that the IL-10 level offers additional prognostic value to the existing tumor staging systems.

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