High mesothelin expression by immunohistochemistry predicts improved survival in pleural mesothelioma

Gerard J. Chu, Anthony Linton, Steven Kao, Sonja Klebe, Stephen Adelstein, Dannel Yeo, John E. J. Rasko, Wendy A. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Aims: Mesothelin (MSLN) is a cancer-associated antigen that is overexpressed in malignancies such as mesothelioma, pancreatic and ovarian cancer. It is also a target for novel personalised therapies, including antibodies, antibody–drug conjugates and chimeric antigen receptor T cells. Immunohistochemistry may predict those who would best respond to anti-mesothelin therapies and guide decisions in therapeutic strategy. This study aimed to assess the intensity and distribution of MSLN immunostaining in mesothelioma, and to determine the prognostic value of MSLN expression by histochemical-score (H-score). 

Methods and results: The MN1 anti-MSLN antibody was used to stain a formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue microarray of histologically confirmed mesothelioma from 75 consecutive patients who had undergone pleurectomy with or without decortication. MSLN positivity, the staining intensity, distribution of staining and H-score were evaluated. The correlation of H-score with prognosis was investigated. Sixty-six per cent of epithelioid tumours were MSLN-positive (with expression in > 5% tumour cells). Of MSLN-expressing epithelioid tumours, 70.4% had moderate (2+) or strong (3+) intensity MSLN immunostaining, although only 37% of samples had staining in ≥ 50% of tumour cells. In multivariate analysis, MSLN H-score as a continuous variable and an H-score ≥ 33 were independent predictors of improved survival (P = 0.04 and P < 0.001, respectively). 

Conclusions: MSLN expression was more heterogenous in epithelioid mesothelioma than reported previously. Therefore, it would be appropriate to perform an immunohistochemical assessment of MSLN expression to stratify and assess patient suitability for mesothelin-targeted personalised therapies, such as chimeric antigen receptor T cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-210
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date11 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • antibodies
  • chimeric antigen receptor T cells
  • epithelioid
  • expression
  • immunohistochemistry
  • mesothelin
  • mesothelioma
  • prognosis


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