Canine osteosarcoma checkpoint expression correlates with metastasis and T-cell infiltrate

Matthew J. Cascio, Elizabeth M. Whitley, Bikash Sahay, Galaxia Cortes-Hinojosa, Lung Ji Chang, Jonathan Cowart, Marc Salute, Elias Sayour, Michael Dark, Zachary Sandoval, Duane A. Mitchell, Rowan J. Milner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Immune-targeted therapies are being successfully implemented into cancer clinical practice. In particular checkpoint inhibitors are employed to modulate the immune microenvironment of solid tumors. We sought to determine the expression of PD-L1, HVEM, and B7H3 in human and canine osteosarcoma, and correlate expression with clinical features and tumor infiltrating lymphocytes in naturally-occurring canine osteosarcoma. Methods: Flow cytometry was used to measure ligand surface expression of five human and three canine cell lines. Immunohistochemistry was utilized for expression of ligands and lymphocyte markers in thirty-seven treatment-naïve canine osteosarcoma patients. Results: All cell lines expressed all three ligands at variable levels in both species. Metastatic lesions were associated with higher expression of all three ligands in patient tumor samples. PD-L1 expression strongly correlated with B7H3 and HVEM expression, while HVEM and B7H3 were weakly correlated. Whereas peritumoral T-cell expression positively correlated with PD-L1 and HVEM tumor expression, the presence of T-cells intratumorally were rare. Furthermore, intratumor penetration by T-cells was greatest in metastatic lesions, despite log-fold increases in peritumoral T-cells. In summary, PD-L1, HVEM, and B7H3 are expressed in osteosarcoma, with metastatic disease lesions expressing higher levels. We show for the first time that these ligands expressed on osteosarcoma cells positively correlate with each other and the presence of peritumoral T cell infiltration. Furthermore, osteosarcoma appears to be an intratumoral immune desert with significant resistance to effector T cells. Multiple agents targeting checkpoints are in clinical practice, and may have immune modulating benefit in osteosarcoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110169
JournalVeterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Cancer
  • Dog
  • Immune process
  • Immunotherapy
  • Osteosarcoma
  • T-lymphocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • veterinary(all)

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