Recent studies have reported the associations between programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) or PD-L2/PD-1 pathways and pro-angiogenic genes including hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in several malignancies. However, no study has examined the relationship or prognostic implication of PD-L1, PD-L2, PD-1, VEGF expression, and microvessel density (MVD) in classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) patients. Diagnostic tissues from 109 patients with doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine-treated cHL were evaluated retrospectively by immunohistochemical analysis for PD-L1, PD-L2, PD-1, VEGF expression, and for CD31 expression as a measure of MVD. There was a positive correlation between PD-L1 and VEGF expression (P = 0.008) and additionally between PD-L2 and VEGF expression (P = 0.001). The mean MVD in tumors positive for both PD-L1 and VEGF was significantly (P = 0.022) higher than the mean MVD in tumors negative for both markers. High PD-1 expression group had lower (P = 0.019) 5-year overall survival rate than low PD-1 expression group. Multivariate analysis revealed that PD-1 was an independent prognostic factor for cHL with significance (P = 0.026). However, PD-L1, PD-L2, and VEGF expression had no prognostic impact. Our data confirmed the positive correlations between PD-L1, VEGF, or MVD. Our findings provided evidence supporting new therapeutic approaches including combinations of anti-PD-L1/PD-1 and anti-VEGF therapy in addition to the current standard regimen for cHL.
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