C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 9 (CXCL9) plays an important role in antitumor immunity through the recruitment, proliferation, and activation of immune cells (IC).

Here, we evaluated the expression patterns of CXCL9 and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) in a cohort of 268 patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) by tissue microarray (TMA). The correlations between CXCL9 expression in ICs or tumor cells (TC) and clinicopathologic parameters, PD-L1 expression, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) and survival were analyzed in this cohort (n = 268). In addition, we analyzed a TNBC dataset (n = 138) from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) to identify correlation between CXCL9 expression and other immune gene expression, immune infiltration, and prognosis. The results of the TMA cohort (n = 268) showed that CXCL9 was expressed in 80.6% cases, with elevated expression levels in ICs relative to in TCs (median: 1% vs. 0%). CXCL9 expressed in ≥1% of ICs was categorized as the CXCL9-IC–positive group. CXCL9-IC expression was strongly and positively correlated with the PD-L1 expression, CD3+ TILs, CD4+ TILs, CD8+ TILs, and CD19+ TILs (all P < 0.0001). Survival analyses showed that the CXCL9-IC–positive group demonstrated prolonged disease-free survival (P = 0.038) and overall survival (P = 0.023) compared with the negative group. The analyses from TCGA cohort (n = 138) showed that elevated CXCL9 expression correlated with increased infiltration of B cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, monocytes and increased expression of immune checkpoint molecules and other CXCL family members, including CXCL10 and CXCL11. These findings confirm the regulatory role of CXCL9 in antitumor immunity and suggest a potential role in treatments involving immune checkpoint blockade.

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