The French phase 3 trial (OS 2006) testing zoledronic acid, an osteoclast inhibitor, with chemotherapy and surgery did not improve the outcome of patients with osteosarcoma (OS). To understand this unexpected result, the presence of infiltrating immune cells was investigated in 124 pre-therapeutic biopsies of patients enrolled in the trial. The percentage of CD68/CD163 tumor-infiltrating macrophages (TAMs), CD8+ lymphocytes, osteoclasts, and the PD1/PDL-1 checkpoint were assessed by immunohistochemistry. M1/M2 macrophage polarization was characterized by pSTAT1/CMAF staining. The expression of these biomarkers was correlated with clinical outcome. No statistical correlations were found with response to chemotherapy. High CD163 levels (>50% of cells per core; 43.8% of patients) were associated with CMAF nuclear expression and significantly correlated with better overall survival (p = 0.0025) and longer metastasis progression-free survival (MPFS, p = 0.0315) independently of metastatic status (p = 0.002). Only a trend was observed for patients with high CD68-positive cells (p = 0.0582). CD8+ staining was positive in >50% of cases with a median staining of 1%. Lower CD8+ levels were associated with metastatic disease at diagnosis and the presence of CD8-positive cells significantly correlated with improved overall survival in zoledronate-treated patients (p = 0.0415). PD1/PDL-1 staining was negative in >80% of cases and was not correlated with outcome. Finally, CD163-positive TAMs and CD8 positive cells are crucial prognostic biomarkers in OS, whereas PD1/PDL-1 checkpoint plays a minor role. For the first time, we described a correlation between CD8 positive cells and survival in zoledronate-treated patients. The immunohistochemical analysis of the microenvironment in biopsies may represent a novel tool for therapeutic stratification.
Keywords: CD163; CD8; Osteosarcoma; PD1/PDL-1 Checkpoint; macrophages.