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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59771. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059771. Epub 2013 Mar 29.

The clinical significance of the CD163+ and CD68+ macrophages in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Liver Cancer Institute and Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, the Key Laboratory for Carcinogenesis & Cancer Invasion, The Ministry of Education of China, Shanghai, PR China.


Our previous study has found that the abundance of peritumoral CD68(+) macrophages was associated with poor prognosis in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) after resection. However, CD68 staining could not discriminate the protumoral or tumoricidal subpopulations from pan-macrophages. CD163 is a marker of alternatively activated macrophages. In this study, the clinical significance of CD163(+) cells in tumors and peritumoral liver tissues was evaluated in a cohort of 295 patients with HCC after curative resection. We found that the density of CD163(+) cells was well correlated with that of CD68(+) cells in both tumors and peritumoral liver tissues but was much more. Immunostaining on consecutive sections and flow cytometry assay on surgical resected specimens further supported the findings that the CD163(+) cells was more abundant than CD68(+) cells. The density of peritumoral CD68(+) cells was associated with poor recurrence-free survival (RFS) and poor overall survival (OS) (P = 0.004 and P = 0.001, respectively), whereas the CD163(+) cells have no prognostic values either in tumors or in peritumoral liver tissues. In another cohort of 107 HCC patients, preoperative plasma concentration of soluble form of CD163 (sCD163) was associated with active hepatitis-related factors but not associated with the markers of tumor invasion. In conclusion, both the CD163(+) cells local infiltration and plasma sCD163 were of limited significance in HCC, and they were more likely markers related to active hepatitis rather than tumor progression.

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