Background: : Melanoma tends to be refractory to various immunotherapies because of tumor-induced immunosuppression. To investigate the mechanism underlining the immunosuppression of melanoma patients, the authors focused on programmed cell death-1 (PD-1)/PD-1 ligand 1 (PD-L1) interaction between tumor cells and T cells.
Methods: : Melanoma specimens were collected from 59 primary tumors, 16 lymph nodes, and 4 lesions of in-transit metastasis. Specimens stained with anti-PD-L1 monoclonal antibodies were digitalized to jpg files. To evaluate the intensity of PD-L1 expression, histograms were used, and the red density (RD) was measured. PD-1 expression on T cells was analyzed in blood samples from 10 patients who had stage IV melanoma and in 4 samples of in-transit metastases.
Results: : Twenty-five patients comprised the "low" PD-L1 expression group (RD value, <90), and 34 patients comprised the "high" group (RD value, > or =90). Breslow tumor thickness in the high-expression group was significantly higher than in the low-expression group. Univariate and multivariate analyses revealed that the overall survival rate of the high-expression group was significantly lower than that of the low-expression group. In all patients with stage IV disease who were examined, both CD8-positive and CD4-positive T cells had significantly higher PD-1 expression levels in the peripheral blood. Tumor-infiltrating T cells expressed high levels of PD-1, and its expression was elevated further during the clinical course.
Conclusions: : The current results indicated that there is a correlation between the degree of PD-L1 expression and the vertical growth of primary tumors in melanoma. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that PD-L1 expression is an independent prognostic factor for melanoma. Cancer 2010. (c) 2010 American Cancer Society.