Biphasic prognostic significance of PD-L1 expression status in patients with early- and locally advanced-stage non-small cell lung cancer

Lung Cancer

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2020 Oct 28. doi: 10.1007/s00262-020-02755-w. Online ahead of print.


Programmed cell death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression on tumor cells is induced by interferon-gamma, suggesting the induction of an anti-tumor immune response. In turn, binding of PD-L1 to programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) triggers an immune checkpoint pathway that contributes to tumor growth. Though it remains to be elucidated, the clinical significance of PD-L1 expression might vary with tumor progression in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Immunohistochemical analysis of PD-L1 was done in tumor

specimens from patients who underwent radical surgery for stage I-IIIA NSCLC (n = 228). Tumor PD-L1 expression intensity was semi-quantitatively scored and its correlation with various clinicopathological features and postoperative relapse-free survival (RFS) was assessed relative to pathological stage. In stage I, postoperative RFS was significantly prolonged in patients with a high PD-L1 score compared with a low PD-L1 score, exhibiting 5-year relapse-free probabilities of 94.1% and 75.1%, respectively (P = 0.031). A multivariate analysis revealed that a high PD-L1 score was a prognostic factor of longer postoperative RFS (hazard ratio: 0.111, P = 0.033). Conversely, in stages II and IIIA, patients with a high PD-L1 score tended to suffer from postoperative tumor recurrence. In early-stage NSCLC, high tumor PD-L1 expression status represents a biomarker to predict good prognosis after radical surgery and may reflect the induction of an antitumor immune response. However, in locally advanced stage NSCLC, tumor PD-L1 expression status may reflect the execution of an immune checkpoint pathway and predicts the incidence of postoperative tumor recurrence.