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Laparoscopic surgery minimizes the release of circulating tumor cells compared to open surgery for hepatocellular carcinoma



The aim of this study was to determine whether tumor manipulation enhances cancer cell release from the primary tumor in HCC patients and which surgical approach, open surgery or laparoscopic resection, is superior with respect to preventing tumor cells from scattering in the blood.


A total of 26 HCC patients were prospectively randomized to receive either open surgery (n = 14) or laparoscopic surgery (n = 12). Blood samples were obtained at three time points: preoperative, postoperative, and 24 h after surgery. The CD45/CD44+/CD90+ cells were obtained and counted using quantitative flow cytometry. The serum levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-8 (IL-8), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) were also compared between the two groups.


There was no significant difference between the laparoscopic and open groups in terms of patient characteristics. The levels of CCSCs increased immediately after surgical manipulation, and the laparoscopy group released fewer tumor cells into the blood stream. The amount of CCSCs in both groups decreased to reach a similar level 24 h after surgery. Both IL-6 and IL-8 increased after surgery, and the mean postoperative increases in IL-6 and IL-8 serum levels were significantly less in the laparoscopic group than in the open group. The TNF-α levels showed no differences at any time point.


Our results showed that patients with laparoscopic surgery have lower IL-6, IL-8 secretion and less CTCs, which may suggest an advantage by restricting CTCs release and a preserved immune response. Further studies are needed to investigate the relationship between the number of CCSCs after surgery and long-term survival rates.

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This work was supported by research grants obtained from the National Science Foundation Council of China (81372562).


Drs Wenda Li, Xue Zhou, ZeJian Huang, Hongwei Zhang, Lei Zhang, Changzhen Shang, Yajin Chen have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.

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Correspondence to Yajin Chen.

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Li, W., Zhou, X., Huang, Z. et al. Laparoscopic surgery minimizes the release of circulating tumor cells compared to open surgery for hepatocellular carcinoma. Surg Endosc 29, 3146–3153 (2015).

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  • Laparoscopy
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Circulating cancer stem cells