Abstract

 

Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), the predominant primary hepatic malignancy, is the prime contributor to mortality. Despite the availability of multiple surgical interventions, patient outcomes remain suboptimal. Immunotherapies have emerged as effective strategies for HCC treatment with multiple clinical advantages. However, their curative efficacy is not always satisfactory, limited by the dysfunctional T cell status. Thus, there is a pressing need to discover novel potential biomarkers indicative of T cell exhaustion (Tex) for personalized immunotherapies. One promising target is Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2 (CDKN2) gene, a key cell cycle regulator with aberrant expression in HCC. However, its specific involvement remains unclear. Herein, we assessed the potential of CDKN2 expression as a promising biomarker for HCC progression, particularly for exhausted T cells. Our transcriptome analysis of CDKN2 in HCC revealed its significant role involving in HCC development. Remarkably, single-cell transcriptomic analysis revealed a notable correlation between CDKN2 expression, particularly CDKN2A, and Tex markers, which was further validated by a human cohort study using human HCC tissue microarray, highlighting CDKN2 expression as a potential biomarker for Tex within the intricate landscape of HCC progression. These findings provide novel perspectives that hold promise for addressing the unmet therapeutic need within HCC treatment.