B7-H4 is Inversely Correlated With T-Cell Infiltration in Clear Cell but Not Serous or Endometrioid Ovarian Cancer

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B7-H4, a tumor-associated cell surface protein, is expressed in endometrioid (EM), serous (SE), and clear cell (CC) ovarian carcinomas. Prior in vitro studies from other groups indicated that elevated B7-H4 expression by tumor cells blocks T-cell activation; therefore, it had been postulated to play a role in shielding cancer cells from immune surveillance and averting apoptotic programs. To test the validity of these hypotheses, the present study was designed to compare the immunohistochemical staining intensity of B7-H4 in tumor cells of ovarian cancers with the number of tumor-infiltrating T cells and macrophages and with the levels of caspase-3 staining in apoptotic debris. Serial tissue sections from EM, SE, and CC carcinomas were analyzed across representative cross-sections of tumor resection specimens, demonstrating different levels of B7-H4 expression, highest in CC cancers. B7-H4 staining in CC tissue sections was significantly correlated with the number of CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ tumor-infiltrating T cells and with the number of CD14+ tumor-infiltrating macrophages, but was not significantly related to caspase-3 staining. These results support the concept that high levels of B7-H4 expression are inversely correlated with tumor T-cell infiltration and with CD14-labeled macrophages but not caspase-3 expression in CC carcinomas. We did not, however, find clear evidence of a relationship between the lower levels of B7-H4 seen in EM and SE carcinomas and T cell or macrophage infiltration. Thus, high levels of B7-H4, as seen in CC carcinomas, is associated with decreased tumor infiltration by T cells and macrophages but the lower levels of expression, as observed in EM and SE carcinomas, appear less likely to play an effective role in protection from immune surveillance. Furthermore, we found no evidence of a correlation between B7-H4 expression and apoptosis. These findings highlight the importance of further investigation of B7-H4 as an immunomodulatory protein, to support the development of novel therapeutic interventions for improved efficacy of treatments for CC carcinoma.

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