It Takes Two to Tango: Potential Prognostic Impact of Circulating TGF-Beta and PD-L1 in Pancreatic Cancer

Life (Basel). 2022 Jun 26;12(7):960. doi: 10.3390/life12070960.


Background: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly devastating disease with rising incidence and poor prognosis. The lack of reliable prognostic biomarkers hampers the individual evaluation of the survival and recurrence potential. Methods: Here, we investigate the value of plasma levels of two potential key players in molecular mechanisms underlying PDAC aggressiveness and immune evasion, soluble TGF-beta (sTGF-beta) and sPD-L1, in both metastatic and radically-resected PDAC. To this aim we prospectively enrolled 38 PDAC patients and performed appropriate statistical analyses in order to evaluate their correlation, and role in the prediction of disease relapse/progression, and patients' outcome. Results: Metastatic patients showed lower levels of circulating sTGF-beta and higher levels of sPD-L1 compared to radically-resected patients. Moreover, a decrease in sTGF-beta levels (but not sPD-L1) was significantly associated with disease relapse in radically-resected patients. We also observed lower sTGF-beta at disease progression after first-line chemotherapy in metastatic patients, though this change was not statistically significant. We found a significant correlation between the levels of sTGF-beta and sPD-L1 before first-line chemotherapy. Conclusions: These findings support the possible interaction of TGF-beta and PD-L1 pathways and suggest that sTGF-beta and sPD-L1 might synergize and be new potential blood-based biomarkers.

Keywords: liquid biopsy; pancreatic adenocarcinoma; prognostic biomarker; sPD-L1; sTGF-beta.