Challenges and the Evolving Landscape of Assessing Blood-Based PD-L1 Expression as a Biomarker for Anti-PD-(L)1 Immunotherapy

Biomedicines. 2022 May 20;10(5):1181. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines10051181.


While promising, PD-L1 expression on tumor tissues as assessed by immunohistochemistry has been shown to be an imperfect biomarker that only applies to a limited number of cancers, whereas many patients with PD-L1-negative tumors still respond to anti-PD-(L)1 immunotherapy. Recent studies using patient blood samples to assess immunotherapeutic responsiveness suggests a promising approach to the identification of novel and/or improved biomarkers for anti-PD-(L)1 immunotherapy. In this review, we discuss the advances in our evolving understanding of the regulation and function of PD-L1 expression, which is the foundation for developing blood-based PD-L1 as a biomarker for anti-PD-(L)1 immunotherapy. We further discuss current knowledge and clinical study results for biomarker identification using PD-L1 expression on tumor and immune cells, exosomes, and soluble forms of PD-L1 in the peripheral blood. Finally, we discuss key challenges for the successful development of the potential use of blood-based PD-L1 as a biomarker for anti-PD-(L)1 immunotherapy.

Keywords: PD-1; PD-L1; anti-PD-(L)1 immunotherapy; biomarker; circulating immune cells; circulating tumor cells; exosomal PD-L1; immune checkpoint inhibitor; liquid biopsy; plasma PD-L1.

Publication types

  • Review

Grant support

This research received no external funding.