Tumor-Associated Macrophages Affect the Tumor Microenvironment and Radioresistance via the Upregulation of CXCL6/CXCR2 in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Hsin Lun Lee, Yi Chieh Tsai, Narpati Wesa Pikatan, Chi Tai Yeh, Vijesh Kumar Yadav, Ming Yao Chen, Jo Ting Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma is the sixth most diagnosed malignancy and the fourth most common cause of cancer-related mortality globally. Despite progress in the treatment of liver cancer, nonsurgical treatments remain unsatisfactory, and only 15% of early-stage cases are surgically operable. Radiotherapy (RT) is a non-surgical treatment option for liver cancer when other traditional treatment methods are ineffective. However, RT has certain limitations, including eliciting poor therapeutic effects in patients with advanced and recurrent tumors. Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are major inflammatory cells in the tumor microenvironment that are key to tumor development, angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis, and they play an essential role in RT responses. Methods: We used big data analysis to determine the potential of targeting CXCL6/CXCR2. We enrolled 50 patients with liver cancer who received RT at our hospital. Tumor tissue samples were examined for any relationship between CXCL6/CXCR2 activity and patient prognosis. Using a cell coculture system (Transwell), we cocultured Huh7 liver cancer cells and THP-1 monocytes with and without CXCL6/CXCR2 small interfering RNA for 72 h. Results: The overexpression of CXCL6/CXCR2 was highly correlated with mortality. Our tissue study indicated a positive correlation between CXCL6/CXCR2 and M2-TAMs subsets. The coculture study demonstrated that THP-1 monocytes can secrete CXCL6, which acts on the CXCR2 receptor on the surface of Huh7 cells and activates IFN-g/p38 MAPK/NF-κB signals to promote the epithelial–mesenchymal transition and radio-resistance. Conclusions: Modulating the TAM/CXCL6/CXCR2 tumor immune signaling axis may be a new treatment strategy for the effective eradication of radiotherapy-resistant hepatocellular carcinoma cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2081
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • tumor microenvironment
  • tumor-associated macrophages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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