Correlation of genomic alterations and PD-L1 expression in thymoma

J Thorac Dis. 2020 Dec;12(12):7561-7570. doi: 10.21037/jtd-2019-thym-13.


Thymic epithelial tumors (TETs) include several anterior mediastinal malignant tumours: thymomas, thymic carcinomas and thymic neuroendocrine cancers. There is significant variety in the biologic features and clinical course of TETs and many attempts have been made to identify target genes for successful therapy of TETs. Next generation sequencing (NGS) represents a huge advancement in diagnostics and these new molecular technologies revealed that thymic neoplasms have the lowest tumor mutation burden among all adult malignant tumours with a different pattern of molecular aberrations in thymomas and thymic carcinomas. As for the PD-L1 expression in tumor cells in thymoma and thymic carcinoma, it varies a lot in published studies, with findings of PD-L1 expression from 23% to 92% in thymoma and 36% to 100% in thymic carcinoma. When correlated PD-L1 expression with disease stage some controversial results were obtained, with no association with tumor stage in most studies. This is, at least in part, explained by the fact that several diverse PD-L1 immunohistochemical tests were used in each trial, with four different antibodies (SP142, SP263, 22C3, and 28-8), different definition of PD-L1 positivity and cutoff values throughout the studies as well. There is a huge interest in using genomic features to produce predictive genomic-based immunotherapy biomarkers, particularly since recent data suggest that certain tumor-specific genomic alterations, either individually or in combination, appear to influence immune checkpoint activity and better responses as the outcome, so as such in some cancer types they may complement existing biomarkers to improve the selection criteria for immunotherapy.

Keywords: Genomic alterations; PD-L1 expression; thymoma.

Publication types

  • Review