Characterization of PD-1/PD-L1 immune checkpoint expression in soft tissue sarcomas

  • Kazuhiko Hashimoto | Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Kindai University Hospital, Osaka-Sayama City, Osaka, Japan.
  • Shunji Nishimura Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Kindai University Hospital, Osaka-Sayama City, Osaka, Japan.
  • Tomohiko Ito Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Kindai University Hospital, Osaka-Sayama City, Osaka, Japan.
  • Masao Akagi Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Kindai University Hospital, Osaka-Sayama City, Osaka, Japan.


Inhibitors of the programmed death-1/programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) immune checkpoint system are used for treating various malignancies. However, evidence on their use in soft tissue sarcomas (STS) is limited. This study aimed to retrospectively investigate the relationship between the expression of PD-1/PD-L1 and related antigens in STS, and their association with clinical characteristics. Immunostaining for CD4, CD8, PD-1, PD-L1, IL-2, and IFN-γ was performed using pathological specimens harvested at the time of biopsy from 10 patients with undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS), nine with myxofibrosarcoma (MFS), and three with malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) who were treated at our hospital. Subsequently, the positive immunostaining cell rates were calculated. We also examined the correlation between each immune positive cell rate and age, tissue grade, size, and maximum standardized uptake (SUV-max) values. The 3-year event-free survival (EFS) and overall survival (OS) rates were compared between the positive and negative groups (positive rate >10%; negative <10%) for various immune stains. The positive rates were also compared between the presence and absence of events groups. There was positive staining for the immune checkpoint molecules in every STS type except for PD-1 in MPNST. CD4, CD8, and PD-1 stained lymphocytes in close proximity to the tumor in adjacent tissue sections. A positive correlation was observed between the positive cell rates of each immune component including inflammatory cytokines such as IL-2 and IFN-γ. Additionally, the clinical features positively correlated with the positive PD-1/PD-L1 expression rates. No significant differences in the 3-EFS and OS rates was observed between the PD-1/PD-L1 positive and negative groups. Our results suggest that an inducible immune checkpoint mechanism may be involved in UPS, MFS, and MPNST.



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Ethics Approval
The current study was approved by the Kindai University Ethics Committee (approval number: 31-187)
Immune checkpoint inhibitors, PD-1/PD-L1, soft tissue sarcoma, programmed death-1, programmed death-ligand 1
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How to Cite
Hashimoto, K., Nishimura, S., Ito, T., & Akagi, M. (2021). Characterization of PD-1/PD-L1 immune checkpoint expression in soft tissue sarcomas. European Journal of Histochemistry, 65(3).