Blockade of immune checkpoints is emerging as new form of anticancer therapy. We studied the expression of PD-L1, PD-L2, PD-1 and CTLA4 mRNA expression in CD34+ cells from MDS, CMML and AML patients (N=124). Aberrant up-regulation (2 fold) was observed in 34, 14, 15 and 8% of the patients respectively. Increased expression of these 4 genes was also observed in PBMNC (N=61). The relative expression of PD-L1 from PBMNC was significantly higher in MDS (P=0.018) and CMML (P=0.0128) compared to AML. By immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis, PD-L1 protein expression was observed in MDS CD34+ cells, whereas stroma/non-blast cellular compartment was positive for PD-1. In a cohort of patients treated with epigenetic therapy, PD-L1, PD-L2, PD-1 and CTLA4 expression was upregulated. Patients resistant to therapy had relative higher increments in gene expression compared to patients that achieved response. Treatment of leukemia cells with decitabine resulted in a dose dependent up-regulation of above genes. Exposure to decitabine resulted in partial demethylation of PD-1 in leukemia cell lines and human samples. This study suggests PD-1 signaling may be involved in MDS pathogenesis and resistance mechanisms to HMAs. Blockade of this pathway can be a potential therapy in MDS and AML.
- myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)