The expression of the adenosine pathway markers CD39 and CD73 in salivary gland carcinomas harbors the potential for novel immune checkpoint inhibition

Arthur Bauer, Niklas Gebauer, Juliana Knief, Lars Tharun, Nele Arnold, Armin Riecke, Konrad Steinestel, Hanno M Witte


BACKGROUND: In salivary gland carcinomas (SGC), there is only a small fraction of entities that appears to profit from immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI). Recent findings connected the activation of adenosine-signaling with a tolerogenic microenvironment. Therefore, the inhibition of adenosine pathway markers (CD39 and/or CD73) can augment ICI and/or display a novel immunotherapeutic strategy beyond ICI. Here, we assessed the immuno-histochemical expression of CD39 and CD73 across a wide spectrum of SGCs.

METHODS: In total, 114 patients with SGCs consecutively diagnosed between 2001 and 2021 were assessed for clinicopathological baseline characteristics and underwent confirmatory histopathological review. Immunohistochemical expression levels of CD39 and CD73 were assessed by applying the tumor proportion score (TPS) and the immune proportional score (IPS) comparable to PD-L1 expression analysis in routine clinical practice. Additionally, findings were correlated with PD-L1 expression levels.

RESULTS: The median age was 60.6 and 51.8% patients were female. The cohort covered a spectrum of eight distinct entities. Advanced-stage disease (UICC/AJCC III/IVA-IVC) at initial diagnosis was present in the majority of patients (64/114). Immunohistochemical staining revealed positivity for CD39 and CD73 in 48.2% and 21.1% on tumor cells (TPS ≥ 1%) as well as 46.4% and 42.9% within the immune cell infiltrate (IPS ≥ 1%), respectively. Further comparative analyses revealed immune-cold entities such adenoid cystic carcinoma (AdCC), immune-hot tumors such as adenocarcinoma, not otherwise specified (AC (NOS)) and entities with intermediate immunologic features such as acinic cell carcinoma (ACC).

CONCLUSION: Current results indicate entity-specific adenosine signaling signatures. These findings suggest that the adenosine pathway plays a decisive role in tumor immunity among the major spectrum of SGCs. Targeting the adenosine pathway might pose a promising therapeutic option for selected entities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 28.07.2022

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)
  • Centers: University Cancer Center Schleswig-Holstein (UCCSH)


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