Tumor mutation burden and checkpoint immunotherapy markers in primary and metastatic synovial sarcoma

Mai He, Brooj Abro, Madhurima Kaushal, Ling Chen, Tiffany Chen, Mercia Gondim, Weisi Yan, Julie Neidich, Louis P. Dehner, John D. Pfeifer

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25 Scopus citations


Synovial sarcoma (SS) is a soft-tissue malignancy that most often affects patients aged between 15 and 40 years, and the prognosis for patients with metastatic disease is generally poor. This study was performed to evaluate checkpoint blockade immunotherapy markers in SS, including tumor mutational burden (TMB), DNA mismatch repair (MMR) status, and PDL-1 (programmed cell death ligand 1), PD1 (programmed cell death 1), and CD8 expression by normal-tumor paired whole-exome sequencing (WES) and immunohistochemistry (IHC). Outcomes evaluated included event-free and overall survival. Twenty one (21) FISH (Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization)-confirmed SS cases (11 F, 10 M) were studied, with age ranging from 8 to 89 years at diagnosis and follow-up ranging from 1 to 16 years. TMB (n = 16) ranged from 0.83 to 212/Mb (median, 1.7). Only one case showed a high TMB of 212/Mb and missense variants of MMR genes in the primary tumor, while the other 15 cases had a low TMB of less than 5/Mb. IHC was performed on all 21 tumor samples for PD-L1, PD1, CD8, and MMR proteins. PD-L1 membranous staining was detected in 3 of 21 cases (14.3%), ranging from 1 to 5% for tumor proportion score and 1–10 for combined positive score. PD1 was detected in 15 of 21 cases (71.4%), ranging from 1 to 25/HPF (high power field) (median, 2). CD8 stain was seen in all cases, ranging from 2 to 60/HPF (median, 5). PD1 staining results correlated with CD8 staining results (P < 0.0001). No correlation of TMB or IHC markers was found with survival. No fixed pattern of TMB or IHCs between primary and metastatic tumors was observed; there was no correlation between TMB or IHCs and age, location, or diagnosis subtype. All of the cases tested showed retained expression of MMR proteins. The results show that for SS, a tumor with strong driver translocation, most cases have a low TMB, but occasionally a high TMB may be present, as observed in 1 of the 16 (6.25%) cases. The demonstration of a subgroup of SS cases with high TMB might explain the 10% response rate to checkpoint immunotherapy observed in clinical trials in patients with SS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Pathology
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Checkpoint immunotherapy
  • Markers
  • Metastasis
  • Synovial sarcoma
  • Tumor mutation burden


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