• interleukins;
  • liver neoplasms;
  • prognosis;
  • neoplasm staging;
  • biologic markers



The level of circulating interleukin 10 (IL-10) is elevated in a proportion of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The objective of the current study was to evaluate the prognostic significance of serum the IL-10 level in patients with unresectable HCC.


Patients with unresectable HCC who provided serum at the time of diagnosis were enrolled prospectively in the study. The level of circulating IL-10 in serum samples was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The association of the IL-10 level with overall survival was evaluated in relation to sociodemographics, liver function, hepatitis B viral load, and tumor staging.


In total, 222 patients were recruited; of these, 82.4% were positive for hepatitis B virus surface antigen, and 65.8% had Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stage C disease. The mean log IL-10 level was 1.1 pg/mL, and 146 patients had an IL-10 level >1 pg/mL (high IL-10 group). The high IL-10 group had worse overall survival than the low IL-10 group (5.0 months vs 14.9 months; hazard ratio, 2.192; P < .0001). The IL-10 level was associated with worse hepatic function and with a high alanine transaminase (ALT) level. The IL-10 level remained an independent prognostic factor (hazard ratio, 1.824; P = .0005) after adjustment for sociodemographics, tumor staging, treatment, Child-Pugh stage, and ALT level. The IL-10 level also subdivided patients into 2 populations with distinct survival (10.2 months vs 3.5 months; P = .0027).


The serum IL-10 level was identified as an independent prognostic factor for unresectable HCC. The current findings suggested that an elevated IL-10 level may be related to hepatic injury caused by cirrhotic processes rather than tumor load. The authors concluded that the IL-10 level offers additional prognostic value to the existing tumor staging systems. Cancer 2012. © 2011 American Cancer Society.