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HHLA2 predicts better survival and exhibits inhibited proliferation in epithelial ovarian cancer

  • Xu, Guocai1
  • Shi, Yuanyuan1
  • Ling, Xiaoting1
  • Wang, Dongyan1
  • Liu, Yunyun1
  • Lu, Huaiwu1
  • Peng, Yongpai1
  • Zhang, Bingzhong1
  • 1 Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, Yingfeng Road No.33, Haizhu District, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China , Guangzhou (China)
Published Article
Cancer Cell International
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
May 07, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12935-021-01930-y
Springer Nature


PurposeThe role of HHLA2, a new immune checkpoint ligand, is gradually being elucidated in various solid tumours. However, its role in ovarian cancer remains unclear; thus, its expression profile and clinical significance in ovarian cancer must be examined.MethodsWe performed immunohistochemistry to examine HHLA2 expression in 64 ovarian cancer tissues and 16 normal ovarian tissues. The relationships between HHLA2 expression and clinicopathological features, prognosis, and CD8+ tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in patients were analysed. Additionally, the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia database was used to analyse the correlation between HHLA2 expression and PD-L1 or B7x expression. Furthermore, the biological function of HHLA2 in ovarian cancer cells was initially explored.ResultsOnly 17.2% of ovarian cancer patients showed HHLA2 expression, which was significantly associated with the differentiation of ovarian cancer cells (p = 0.027), and well-differentiated tumours expressed higher levels of HHLA2. The density of CD8+ TIL was associated with increased HHLA2 expression (p = 0.017), and the CD8+ TIL count was higher in the HHLA2-positive group than that in the HHLA2-negative group (p = 0.023). Moreover, multivariate analysis identified HHLA2 expression as an independent prognostic factor that predicted improved survival (p = 0.049; HR = 0.156; 95% CI = 0.025–0.992). Additionally, we also found that overexpressing HHLA2 inhibited the proliferation of ovarian cancer cells.ConclusionHHLA2 is associated with tumour differentiation and high CD8+ TIL levels; and predicts improved survival in ovarian cancer. Along with previously reported findings that HHLA2 behaves as a co-stimulatory ligand, our study suggests that the loss of HHLA2 may contribute to the immunosuppressive microenvironment and progression of ovarian cancer.

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