Background: Programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) inhibitors have shown significant therapeutic promise in various cancers. However, the clinical significance of PD-1 expression remains not fully understood. In this study, we evaluated the clinical and prognostic relevance of PD-1 expression in breast cancer (BC). Methods: First, we analyzed PD-1 mRNA expression in BC tissues and performed a survival analysis using a dataset from The Cancer Genome Atlas. Next, we measured PD-1 mRNA expression in peripheral blood (PB) in BC patients by quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. We performed a survival analysis and evaluated the association between PD-1 mRNA expression in PB and the clinicopathological features of 372 BC patients who underwent curative resection. Flow cytometry (FCM) analysis was performed to identify PD-1-expressing cells in PB. Finally, we determined whether there was a correlation of PD-1 mRNA expression in PB and tumor tissue. Results: PD-1 mRNA expression was significantly higher in tumor tissues compared with normal tissues. Decreased PD-1 mRNA expression in tumor tissue was associated with poor overall survival (OS). PD-1 mRNA expression in PB of BC patients was higher than that of healthy volunteers, and increased PD-1 mRNA expression in PB was associated with poor OS. FCM revealed that PD-1 was mostly expressed on T cells in PB, predominantly in CD4+ T cells. PD-1 mRNA expression in PB was negatively correlated with PD-1 mRNA expression in tumor tissue. Conclusion: High expression of PD-1 mRNA in preoperative PB could serve as an effective biomarker that indicates poor prognosis in BC.
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