Prognostic impact of programed cell death-1 (PD-1) and PD-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression in cancer cells and tumor infiltrating lymphocytes in colorectal cancer

Mol Cancer. 2016 Aug 24;15(1):55. doi: 10.1186/s12943-016-0539-x.


Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer in males and the second in females. PD-1/PD-L1 axis, as an immune checkpoint, is up-regulated in many tumors and their microenvironment. However, the prognostic value of PD-1/PD-L1 in CRC remains unclear.

Methods: The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database (N = 356) and Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center (FUSCC) cohort of patients (N = 276) were adopted to analyze the prognostic value of PD-L1 in colorectal tumor cells (TCs) and of PD-1 in tumor infiltrating cells (TILs) for CRC. Subgroup analyses were conducted in FUSCC cohort according to patients' status of mismatch repair.

Results: In TCGA cohort, the cut-off values of PD-1 and PD-L1 expression were determined by X-tile program, which were 4.40 and 2.92, respectively. Kaplan-Meier analysis indicated that higher PD-1 and PD-L1 expressions correlated with better OS (P = 0.032 and P = 0.002, respectively). In FUSCC cohort, expressions of PD-1 on TILs and PD-L1 on TCs were analyzed separately by immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining based on a TMA sample (N = 276) and revealed that both TILs-PD-1 and TCs-PD-L1 were associated with OS (P = 0.006 and P = 0.002, respectively) and DFS (P = 0.025 and P = 0.004, respectively) of CRC patients. Multivariate Cox regression analysis indicated TILs-PD-1 was an independent prognostic factor both for OS and DFS of CRC patients (P < 0.05). Subgroup analyses showed that TILs-PD-1 was an independent prognostic factor for both OS and DFS in CRC patients in MSS-proficient subgroup (P < 0.05), while neither of them correlated with OS or DFS in MSS-deficient subgroup (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: Higher expressions of PD-1 and PD-L1 correlates with better prognosis of CRC patients. TILs-PD-1 is an independent prognostic factor for OS and DFS of CRC patients, especially for MMR-proficient subgroup.

Keywords: Colorectal cancer; PD-1; PD-L1; Prognosis; The cancer genome atlas; Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • B7-H1 Antigen / genetics*
  • B7-H1 Antigen / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / genetics*
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / metabolism
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Up-Regulation*


  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • CD274 protein, human
  • PDCD1 protein, human
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor