Involvement of kynurenine pathway in hepatocellular carcinoma

Shivani Krishnamurthy, David Gilot, Seong Beom Ahn, Vincent Lam, Joo-Shik Shin, Gilles Jackie Guillemin, Benjamin Heng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


As the second and third leading cancer-related death in men and the world, respectively, primary liver cancer remains a major concern to human health. Despite advances in diagnostic technology, patients with primary liver cancer are often diagnosed at an advanced stage. Treatment options for patients with advanced hepatocarcinoma (HCC) are limited to systemic treatment with multikinase inhibitors and immunotherapy. Furthermore, the 5-year survival rate for these late-stage HCC patients is approximately 12% worldwide. There is an unmet need to identify novel treatment options and/or sensitive blood-based biomarker(s) to detect this cancer at an early stage. Given that the liver harbours the largest proportion of immune cells in the human body, understanding the tumour–immune microenvironment has gained increasing attention as a potential target to treat cancer. The kynurenine pathway (KP) has been proposed to be one of the key mechanisms used by the tumour cells to escape immune surveillance for proliferation and metastasis. In an inflammatory environment such as cancer, the KP is elevated, suppressing local immune cell populations and enhancing tumour growth. In this review, we collectively describe the roles of the KP in cancer and provide information on the latest research into the KP in primary liver cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5180
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • IDO inhibitor
  • Immune evasion
  • Indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase 1
  • Kynurenine pathway
  • Primary liver cancer
  • Tryptophan 2,3 dioxygenase 2


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