The Putative Role of Natural Killer Cells in Patients with Hepatitis C Virus-Related Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Department of Clinical and Chemical Pathology, National Liver Institute, Menoufia University, Shebeen El-Kom, Egypt.

2 Department of Clinical Pathology, National Cancer Institute, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt.

3 Hepatology and Gastroenterology, National Liver Institute, Menoufia University, Shebeen El-Kom, Egypt.

4 Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt.

5 Department of Clinical Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Zagazig University, Egypt.


Background: Natural Killer (NK) cells have crucial roles in immune responses against malignant transformation including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The NKG2D receptor has a critical role in the NK recognition of target cells. Aim: We assessed NKG2D receptor expression as a diagnostic biomarker for HCC detection and progression in Egyptian patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related HCC. Methods: We classified 81 patients into three groups: chronic hepatitis (21), cirrhotic (30) and HCC (30) patients, with 36 individuals enrolled to the control group. We analyzed NK levels in peripheral blood and NKG2D receptor expression in NK cells using flow cytometry. Results: We observed a significant decrease in NKG2D (CD314) expression on circulating NK cells and frequency of NK cells expressing NKG2D (CD314) in HCC patients. Also, in patients, larger foci lesions significantly correlated with decreased NK cell numbers. Multiple foci numbers and patients with a Child score C significantly correlated with decreased circulating NK cells expressing NKG2D and decreased NKG2D expression. Conclusion: The percentage of NK cells in peripheral blood and NKG2D receptor expression could function as potential biomarkers for HCC detection and progression.


Main Subjects

Volume 22, Issue 8
August 2021
Pages 2559-2567
  • Receive Date: 16 May 2021
  • Revise Date: 28 July 2021
  • Accept Date: 12 August 2021
  • First Publish Date: 12 August 2021