Elevated sHLA-G plasma levels post chemotherapy combined with ILT-2 rs10416697C allele status of the sHLA-G-related receptor predict poorest disease outcome in early triple-negative breast cancer patients

Introduction: Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) shows an aggressive growing and spreading behavior and has limited treatment options, often leading to inferior disease outcome. Therefore, surrogate markers are urgently needed to identify patients at high risk of recurrence and more importantly, to identify additional therapeutic targets enabling further treatment options. Based on the key role of the non-classical human leukocyte antigen G (HLA-G) and its related receptor immunoglobulin-like transcript receptor-2 (ILT-2) in immune evasion mechanisms of tumors, members of this ligand-receptor axis appear to be promising tool for both, defining risk groups and potential therapeutic targets.

Materials and methods: To follow this, sHLA-G levels before and after chemotherapy (CT), HLA-G 3’ UTR haplotypes, and allele variations rs10416697 at the distal gene promoter region of ILT-2 were defined in healthy female controls and early TNBC patients. The results obtained were associated with clinical status, presence of circulating tumor cell (CTC) subtypes, and disease outcome of patients in terms of progression-free or overall survival.

Results: sHLA-G plasma levels were increased in TNBC patients post-CT compared to levels of patients pre-CT or controls. High post-CT sHLA-G levels were associated with the development of distant metastases, the presence of ERCC1 or PIK3CA-CTC subtypes post-CT, and poorer disease outcome in uni- or multivariate analysis. HLA-G 3’ UTR genotypes did not influence disease outcome but ILT-2 rs10416697C allele was associated with AURKA-positive CTC and with adverse disease outcome by uni- and multivariate analysis. The prognostic value of the combined risk factors (high sHLA-G levels post-CT and ILT-2 rs10416697C allele carrier status) was an even better independent indicator for disease outcome in TNBC than the lymph nodal status pre-CT. This combination allowed the identification of patients with high risk of early progression/death with positive nodal status pre-CT or with non-pathological complete therapy response

Conclusion: The results of this study highlight for the first time that the combination of high levels of sHLA-G post-CT with ILT-2 rs10416697C allele receptor status is a promising tool for the risk assessment of TNBC patients and support the concept to use HLA-G/ILT-2 ligand-receptor axis as therapeutic targets.


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