Expression of PD-L1 is HPV/P16-independent in oral squamous cell carcinoma

Heliyon. 2022 Sep 17;8(10):e10667. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e10667. eCollection 2022 Oct.


Objectives: This study aimed to investigate the expression of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) and its associations with human papillomavirus (HPV) 16/18 DNA status, p16 expression, demographic, clinicopathologic and risk parameters in patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC).

Study design: A total of 85 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded OSCC specimens were collected. HPV16/18 DNA was detected by polymerase chain reaction. PD-L1 and p16 expressions were assessed using immunohistochemical technique. The immunostaining scores were calculated by combined positive score (CPS), previously described. The positive scoring value was determined at CPS ≥1, recommended by FDA. The associations between PD-L1 expression and HPV16/18 DNA status, p16 expression, demographic, clinicopathologic, and risk parameters were analyzed by Chi-square, Fisher's exact tests, and multivariate logistic regression.

Results: PD-L1 expression was detected in 22 out of 85 cases of OSCC (25.9%). 16.5% of all cases were HPV 16/18-positive and 62.4% were p16-positive. Statistically, there were no significant associations between PD-L1 expression in OSCC and HPV16/18 DNA status, p16 expression, demographic and, clinicopathologic parameters or risk behaviors.

Conclusion: Approximately one-fourth of OSCC cases were PD-L1-positive, suggesting candidacy for anti-PD-L1 immunotherapy. Furthermore, HPV infection and p16 expression were not involved with PD-L1 expression. Further clinical trials warrant the benefits of immunotherapy in patients with PD-L1-positive OSCC.

Keywords: Human papillomavirus; Oral squamous cell carcinoma; PD-L1; p16.