PD1 distribution pattern, regardless of the cell origin, is an independent microenvironmental prognostic factor for progression-free survival in follicular lymphoma


Pathol Res Pract. 2020 Jun 29;216(10):153096. doi: 10.1016/j.prp.2020.153096. Online ahead of print.


Follicular lymphoma (FL) is a well-studied microenvironment-dependent hematological malignancy, but the crosstalk between various involved cell subtypes is still not fully understood. Recent promising results of immunotherapy in recurrent FL warrant the need for an in-depth analysis of the expression and role of immune system-related proteins in the FL microenvironment. Seventy-one patients with FL and available diagnostic paraffin blocks were enrolled in the retrospective analysis.

Histopathological diagnoses were revised according to the World Health Organization recommendations. Patients were either observed (watch and wait/W&W group) or immediately treated with chemo(immuno)therapy regimens according to their clinical status. Immunohistochemical assessment of PD1, PDL1, CD4, CD8, CD163, CD68-KP1, CD68-PGM1 was performed. The scoring methods included both semi-quantitative estimation of positive cells and architectural pattern distribution. The differences between PD1 staining distribution and intensity were classified as intra/perifollicular vs. interfollicular/diffuse cells and presented bright vs. dim immunoreactivity, respectively. No statistically significant differences in the density distribution of the immunohistochemical stainings were found between W&W and chemo(immuno)therapy groups. Interfollicular/diffuse pattern of PD1 expression had significantly decreased progression-free survival when analyzing the whole cohort and patients on chemo(immuno)therapy (p = 0.014 and p = 0.07, respectively). The high dependence was not significant in the W&W group. PD1 positivity of cells did not correlate with CD4 or CD8 immunophenotype. Morphologically FL neoplastic cells were entirely PDL1 negative, but granular and membranous staining was detected in the FL microenvironment. In line with previous studies, PD1/PDL1 expression was predominantly localized in the FL microenvironment, indicating that FL cells might not be the direct target for anti-PDL1 therapy. However, we show that the localization of PD1 expression could be a viable progression-free survival biomarker for FL.