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The effects of chemotherapeutic drugs on PD-L1 gene expression in breast cancer cell lines


Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in terms of prevalence and mortality, and chemotherapy is one of the most effective treatments at higher stages. However, resistance to chemotherapy is the main obstacle in the treatment of this cancer. Accumulated evidence identified the PD-L1 protein as an essential protein in the development of different cancers. Abnormal expression of this protein in various tumor cells is linked to cancer development and inhibiting the function of immune cells, which correlated with reduced beneficial effects of chemotherapy drugs. In the present study, the effects of common chemotherapy drugs including doxorubicin, paclitaxel, and docetaxel on the expression of the PD-L1 gene were investigated by qRT-PCR before and after the treatment with these drugs in MD231, MD468, SKBR3 breast cancer cell lines. Also, the MTT test was applied to examine the effects of drugs on the growth and proliferation of cancer cells considering PD-L1 expression. The expression of the PD-L1 gene increased after 24 and 48 h of treatment with chemotherapy drugs. The obtained results indicate the enhancing effects of chemotherapy drugs on PD-L1 gene expression, which have a suppressive effect on the immune system against breast cancer. The use of these drugs as the first line of chemotherapy in triple-negative breast cancer is not recommended. However, there is still a need for further experimental and clinical research on the exact effects of these drugs on undesired immune cells exhaustion in breast cancer therapy.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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We thank the research staff at the Immunology Research Center, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences for assistance in performing experiments.


This work was financially supported by a grant from Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran (Project No. 62280).

Author information




MM, and BB devised the main conceptual ideas and participated in the design of the work. BB provided biological materials and reagents. MM, SS, MA, and AB performed the experiments. MM, and KH wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. SH, SSS, and AM participated in the analysis of the work and reviewed and edited the manuscript. BB supervised the study.

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Correspondence to Behzad Baradaran.

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All experiments and procedures were conducted in compliance with the ethical principles of Tabriz University of Medical Science, Tabriz, Iran and approved by the regional ethical committee for medical research.

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Majidi, M., Safaee, S., Amini, M. et al. The effects of chemotherapeutic drugs on PD-L1 gene expression in breast cancer cell lines. Med Oncol 38, 147 (2021).

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  • Breast cancer cell lines
  • PD-L1
  • Paclitaxel
  • Docetaxel
  • Doxorubicin