Programmed cell death-ligand 1 expression in hepatocellular carcinoma and its correlation with clinicopathological characteristics

J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021 Sep;36(9):2601-2609. doi: 10.1111/jgh.15475. Epub 2021 Mar 10.


Background and aim: Programmed cell death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) immunohistochemistry score has been approved as the predictive biomarker for anti-PD1/PD-L1 therapy in several advanced malignancies. Although its predictive role remained inconclusive in hepatocellular carcinoma, ongoing study of anti-PD1/PD-L1 therapy showed promising results. However, less is known about the PD-L1 immunohistochemistry score and factors correlated with it in hepatocellular carcinoma. We investigated PD-L1 immunohistochemistry scores in a large cohort of hepatocellular carcinoma, as well as its correlation with various clinical and genomic factors.

Methods: Immunohistochemistry was performed to detect the expression of PD-L1 protein in 315 hepatocellular carcinoma tissues. All slides were independently reviewed by three senior pathologists. Next-generation YS panel (450 genes) sequencing was performed on 309 patients.

Results: Higher PD-L1 expression as measured by combined positive score (CPS) was associated with increased Edmondson-Steiner grade (grade III vs II, P = 0.041) and TP53 mutations (P = 0.021). PD-L1 CPS had no correlation with tumor mutational burden (Spearman's correlation coefficient 0.067). PD-L1 CPS was not significantly associated with hepatitis B virus infection.

Conclusions: Our data indicated that patients with higher Edmondson-Steiner grade (grade III) had significantly higher PD-L1 CPS than patients with lower Edmondson-Steiner grade (grade II). Patients with TP53 mutations had significantly higher PD-L1 expression.

Keywords: E-S grade; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Immunohistochemistry; PD-L1; TP53; Tumor mutational burden.