Programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) and its ligand (PD-L1) in common cancers and their correlation with molecular cancer type


Zoran Gatalica, Carrie Snyder, Todd Maney, Anatole Ghazalpour, Daniel A Holterman, Nianqing Xiao, Peggy Overberg, Inga Rose, Gargi D Basu, Semir Vranic, Henry T Lynch, Daniel D Von Hoff, Omid Hamid


Cancer cells expressing PD-1 ligands (PD-L1/PD-L2) inhibit immune-modulatory T-cell activation facilitating disease progression. Preliminary clinical trials exploring interruption of PD-1/PD-L1 signaling showed benefit in several cancer types. We analyzed the distribution of PD-1-positive tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) and cancer cells’ expression of PD-L1 in a molecularly profiled cohort of 437 malignancies (380 carcinomas, 33 sarcomas, and 24 melanomas). We showed that the presence of PD-1(+) TILs significantly varied among cancer types (from 0% in extraskeletal myxoid chondrosarcomas to 93% in ovarian cancer), and was generally associated with the increased number of mutations in tumor cells (P = 0.029). Cancer cell expression of PD-L1 varied from absent (in Merkel cell carcinomas) to 100% (in chondro- and liposarcomas), but showed the inverse association with the number of detected mutations (P = 0.004). Both PD-1 and PD-L1 expression were significantly higher in triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC) than in non-TNBC (P < 0.001 and 0.017, respectively). Similarly, MSI-H colon cancers had higher PD-1 and PD-L1 expression than the microsatellite stable tumors (P = 0.002 and 0.02, respectively). TP53-mutated breast cancers had significantly higher PD-1 positivity than those harboring other driver mutations (e.g., PIK3CA; P = 0.002). In non-small cell lung cancer, PD-1/PD-L1 coexpression was identified in 8 cases (19%), which lacked any other targetable alterations (e.g., EGFR, ALK, or ROS1). Our study demonstrated the utility of exploring the expression of two potentially targetable immune checkpoint proteins (PD-1/PD-L1) in a substantial proportion of solid tumors, including some aggressive subtypes that lack other targeted treatment modalities.

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