, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 122–129 | Cite as

Blockade of the programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) as potential therapy for anaplastic thyroid cancer

  • Silvia CantaraEmail author
  • Eugenio Bertelli
  • Rossella Occhini
  • Marì Regoli
  • Lucia Brilli
  • Furio Pacini
  • Maria Grazia Castagna
  • Paolo Toti
Original article



Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is a rare, highly aggressive form of thyroid cancer (TC) characterized by an aggressive behavior and poor prognosis, resulting in patients’ death within a year. Standard treatments, such as chemo and radiotherapy, as well as tyrosine kinase inhibitors, are ineffective for ATC treatment. Cancer immunotherapy is one of the most promising research area in oncology. The PD-1/PD-L1 axis is of particular interest, in light of promising data showing a restoration of host immunity against tumors, with the prospect of long-lasting remissions.


In this study, we evaluated PD-L1 expression in a large series of TCs (20 cases) showing a progressive dedifferentiation of the thyroid tumor from well differentiated TC to ATC, employing two different antibodies [R&D Systems and VENTANA PD-L1 (SP263) Rabbit Monoclonal Primary Antibody]. We also tested the anti PD-L1 mAb in an in vivo animal model.


We found that approximately 70–90% of ATC cases were positive for PD-L1 whereas normal thyroid and differentiated TC were negative. Moreover, all analyzed cases presented immunopositive staining in the endothelium of vessels within or in close proximity to the tumor, while normal thyroid vessels were negative. PD-L1 mAb was also effective in inhibiting ATC growth in an in vivo model.


These data suggest that immunotherapy may be a promising treatment specific for ATC suggesting the need to start with clinical TRIALs.


PD-L1 PD-1 Anaplastic thyroid cancer Immunotherapy 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtain from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary figure 1
12020_2019_1865_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (1.5 mb)
Supplementary figure 2


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical, Surgical and Neurological SciencesUniversity of SienaSienaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Molecular and Developmental MedicineUniversity of SienaSienaItaly
  3. 3.Unit of PathologyArezzo HospitalArezzoItaly
  4. 4.University of SienaSienaItaly

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