T follicular helper (Tfh) cells and T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells were newly identified as the subsets of cluster of CD4+ T cells. As major components of human immune system, they were found in tumor microenvironment and reported to play vital roles in the progression of cancer. But their clinical significance in Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was not elucidated. Thus, this research aimed to investigate their prognostic value in HCC.
A total of 210 subjects (including 110 HCC patients, 50 chronic hepatitis patients and 50 healthy individuals) were enrolled in the research. Tfh, Tfr cells and Treg cells from peripheral blood were measured by flow cytometry. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were used to evaluate the diagnostic performance of Tfr-Tfh Index (TTI) in early HCC and relapse status. Its further prognostic valve was assessed by Kaplan-Meier survival estimate and log rank tests.
Tfh cells, Tfr cells, Treg cells and TTI were all higher in HCC patients than in chronic hepatitis patients and healthy control. TTI was found to have positive correlation with the load of HBV. The AUC of TTI for early HCC and relapse status was better than other clinical indices in HBV positive patients. An optimal cutoff point for the TTI stratified the HCC patients into high (>21.96) and low index (≤21.96) groups. High TTI was significantly correlated with recurrence. Univariate and multivariate analyses revealed TTI could be a predictor for recurrence. Moreover, it retained prognostic performance for patients with lower recurrence risk.
Our research showed that TTI could be a promising indicator for early recurrence in HCC patients with HBV infection.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.