Objective: Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is activated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and tumor-associated macrophage plays an important role in tumor progression. Therefore, we examined STAT3 activation, cytokine expression and infiltration of tumor-associated macrophages in resected HCCs as well as the alteration of cell growth and migration by cytokine stimulation in HCC cell lines. Methods: Immunohistochemical staining of phosphorylated STAT3 (pSTAT3), CD163, interleukin (IL)-6, Ki-67 and Bcl-XL was performed for 101 cases of resected HCC, and correlations between pSTAT3 staining and clinicopathological findings were analyzed. In HCC cell lines (PLC/PRF/5 and Huh7), cell proliferation and migration by IL-6 stimulation and S3I-201 (STAT3 inhibitor) treatment were analyzed. Results: In HCC specimens, the pSTAT3-positive group showed high levels of α-fetoprotein (p = 0.0276), large tumor size (p = 0.0092), frequent intrahepatic metastasis (p = 0.0214), high Ki-67 (p = 0.0002) and Bcl-XL (p = 0.0001), poor prognosis (p = 0.0234), and high recurrence rate (p = 0.0003). CD163-positive cells were frequently observed in the pSTAT3-positive group (p = 0.0013). In two HCC cell lines, IL-6 stimulation promoted cell proliferation and migration via the STAT3 phosphorylation, and S3I-201 inhibited this activation. Conclusions: STAT3 activation was correlated with aggressive behavior of HCC and may be mediated via tumor-associated macrophage. We expect that STAT3 signaling and tumor-associated macrophages can be attractive therapeutic targets in HCC patients.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology