Background: Programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor/PD-1 ligand (PD-L1) pathway negatively regulates T-cell-mediated responses. The prognostic impact of PD-L1 expression needs to be defined in urothelial carcinoma (UC).
Patients and methods: Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor samples from 160 patients with UC were retrieved. PD-L1 expression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry using a mouse monoclonal anti-PD-L1 antibody (405.9A11). PD-L1 positivity on tumor cell membrane was defined as ≥5% of tumor cell membrane staining. The extent of tumor-infiltrating mononuclear cells (TIMCs) as well as PD-L1 expression on TIMCs was scored from 0 to 4. A score of 2, 3, or 4 was considered PD-L1-positive. Clinico-pathological variables were documented. The Cox regression model was used to assess the association of PD-L1 expression with overall survival (OS) in patients who developed metastases.
Results: TIMCs were present in 143 of the 160 patient samples. Out of 160 samples, 32 (20%) had positive PD-L1 expression in tumor cell membrane. Out of 143 samples with TIMCs, 58 (40%) had positive PD-L1 expression in TIMCs. Smoking history, prior BCG use and chromosome 9 loss did not correlate with PD-L1 expression in either tumor cell membrane or TIMCs. PD-L1 positivity was not different between non-invasive or invasive UC. In patients who developed metastases (M1) and were treated with systemic therapy (n = 100), PD-L1 positivity on tumor cell membrane was seen in 14% of patients and did not correlate with OS (P = 0.45). Out of 89 M1 patients who had evaluable PD-L1 on TIMCs, PD-L1 expression was seen in 33% of patients and was significantly associated with longer OS on multivariate analysis (P = 0.0007).
Conclusion: PD-L1 is widely expressed in tumor cell membrane and TIMCs in UC. PD-L1 in tumor cells was not predictive of OS. However, positive PD-L1 expression in TIMCs was significantly associated with longer survival in those patients who developed metastases.
Keywords: PD-1; PD-L1; immunotherapy; overall survival; prognosis; urothelial carcinoma.
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