Background: Data regarding the prognostic value of programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression on circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are lacking. However, CTCs could represent an alternative approach to serial biopsies, allowing real-time monitoring of cancer phenotype.
Methods: We evaluated, in a dedicated prospective clinical trial, the clinicopathological correlations and prognostic value of PD-L1(+)-CTCs in 72 patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC).
Results: Eighteen of 56 patients with available archival tissue presented at least one positive (≥1%) PD-L1 tumor sample. Baseline CTCs and PD-L1(+)-CTCs were detected in 57 (79.2%) and 26 (36.1%) patients. No significant correlation was found between PD-L1 tumors and CTC expression. In univariate analysis, triple negative (TN) phenotype, number of metastatic treatments, >2 metastatic sites, ≥5 CTCs and PD-L1(+)-CTCs were significantly associated with progression-free survival, while tissue PD-L1 expression was not. In multivariate analysis, TN phenotype, number of metastatic treatments and of metastatic sites were the only 3 variables independently associated with progression-free survival. Progesterone receptor negativity, TN phenotype, >2 metastatic sites and ≥5 CTCs were significantly associated with overall survival in univariate analysis. In multivariable analysis, TN phenotype and >2 metastatic sites were the only 2 independent variables.
Conclusions: Unlike PD-L1(+)-tumor, PD-L1(+)-CTCs correlate to survival in MBC. Reappraisal of the role of PD-L1 expression by tumor tissue and by CTCs under anti-PD-1/PD-L1 treatment is necessary to evaluate its predictive value and potential role as a stratifying factor in strategies and trials for MBC patients with MBC.
Clinical trial registration: NCT02866149.
Keywords: Breast cancer; Circulating tumor cells (CTCs); Immunohistochemistry (IHC); Liquid biopsy; PD-L1.
© American Association for Clinical Chemistry 2020. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com.