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Datta, Rabi R.; Schran, Simon; Persa, Oana-Diana; Aguilar, Claire; Thelen, Martin; Lehmann, Jonas; Garcia-Marquez, Maria A.; Wennhold, Kerstin; Preugszat, Ella; Zentis, Peter; Bergwelt-Baildon, Michael S. van; Quaas, Alexander; Bruns, Christiane J.; Kurschat, Christine; Mauch, Cornelia; Loeser, Heike; Stippel, Dirk L. and Schloesser, Hans A. (2022): Post-transplant Malignancies Show Reduced T-cell Abundance and Tertiary Lymphoid Structures as Correlates of Impaired Cancer Immunosurveillance. In: Clinical Cancer Research, Vol. 28, No. 8: pp. 1712-1723

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Purpose: An increased risk to develop cancer is one of the most challenging negative side effects of long-term immunosuppression in organ transplant recipients and impaired cancer immunosur-veillance is assumed as underlying mechanism. This study aims to elucidate transplant-related changes in the tumor immune micro-environment (TME) of cancer. Experimental Design: Data from 123 organ transplant recipients (kidney, heart, lung, and liver) were compared with historic data from non-immunosuppressed patients. Digital image analysis of whole-section slides was used to assess abundance and spatial distribution of T cells and tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS) in the TME of 117 tumor samples. Expression of programmed cell death 1 ligand 1 (PD-L1) and human-leucocyte-antigen class I (HLA-I) was assessed on tissue microarrays. Results: We found a remarkably reduced immune infiltrate in the center tumor (CT) regions as well as the invasive margins (IM) of post-transplant cancers. These differences were more pronounced in the IM than in the CT and larger for CD8 thorn T cells than for CD3 thorn T cells. The Immune-score integrating results from CT and IM was also lower in transplant recipients. Density of TLS was lower in cancer samples of transplant recipients. The fraction of samples with PD-L1 expression was higher in controls whereas decreased expression of HLA-I was more common in transplant recipients. Conclusions: Our study demonstrates the impact of immunosup-pression on the TME and supports impaired cancer immunosurveil-lance as important cause of post-transplant cancer. Modern immu-nosuppressive protocols and cancer therapies should consider the distinct immune microenvironment of post-transplant malignancies.

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