PD-1/PD-L1 and VEGF-A/VEGF-C expression in lymph node microenvironment and association with melanoma metastasis and survival

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Regional lymph nodes are affected frequently by melanoma metastasis. Its microenvironment may be associated with tumor progression. We investigated sentinel nodes with and without tumor and negative nodes surrounding positive nodes, looking for patterns related to tumor immune interaction and lymphovascular progression. We quantified programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1)/programmed cell death-ligand 1, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A/VEGF-C expressions in lymph nodes of 103 patients who underwent sentinel lymph node biopsy. Two groups were studied: negative sentinel lymph nodes and positive ones. Negative lymph nodes of sequential lymphadenectomy from positive cases were also studied. Markers were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Results were related to clinical/histological outcomes. VEGF-A/VEGF-C analysis showed higher positivity in metastatic nodes and higher positivity in the surrounding negative nodes from positive cases in comparison with nonmetastatic patients. Programmed cell death-ligand 1, studied only in metastasis, presented high positivity, not associated with prognosis. PD-1 expressions were similar in the groups with a 1% cutoff and higher in the metastasis with a 5% cutoff. Higher VEGF-A expression was related to higher pathological stages. PD-1 expression in the lymph node was associated with higher survival. Other clinical and histopatological variables were not associated with marker expression patterns. VEGF-A and VEGF-C expressions in lymph nodes were associated with the presence of lymph node metastasis. PD-1 expression in the lymph node was related to higher survival rates and this should be explored in the context of adjuvant immunotherapy.

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