Scientific publications

PD-L1 expression correlates with tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and better prognosis in patients with HPV-negative head and neck squamous cell carcinomas

May 24, 2020 | Magazine: Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy

Mario Sanchez-Canteli, Rocio Granda-Díaz, Nagore Del Rio-Ibisate, Eva Allonca, Fernando López-Alvarez, Jackeline Agorreta, Irati Garmendia, Luis M Montuenga, Juana M García-Pedrero, Juan P Rodrigo

Introduction: The importance of immune tumor microenvironment in the prognosis of patients with head and neck squamous carcinomas (HNSCC) is increasingly recognized. We analyzed the prognostic relevance of PD-L1 and PD-1 expressions in relation to the infiltration by CD8+ and FOXP3+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs).

Methods: Samples from 372 surgically treated HPV-negative HNSCC patients were evaluated by immunohistochemistry for PD-L1 expression [both tumor proportion score (TPS) and combined proportion score (CPS)], PD-1 expression in immune cells, and density of infiltrating CD8+ and FOXP3+ TILs. PD-L1 expression and CD8+ TIL density were combined to establish the type of tumor microenvironment.

Results: 29.5% cases exhibited PD-L1 TPS positivity (≥ 1%), whereas PD-L1 CPS positivity (≥ 1%) was observed in 40% cases. 47.5% cases showed positive PD-1 expression (≥ 1%). PD-L1 and PD-1 positivity correlated with a high density of both CD8+ and FOXP3+ TILs. In univariate analysis, PD-L1 TPS positivity (P = 0.026), PD-L1 CPS positivity (P = 0.004), high density of CD8+ TIL (P = 0.001), and high density of FOXP3+ TIL (P = 0.004) were associated with a better disease-specific survival (DSS).

However, in multivariate analysis, only high density of CD8+ TIL was associated with a better DSS (P = 0.002). The type of tumor microenvironment correlated with DSS (P = .008), with the better DSS observed in cases with type I (PD-L1 CPS positivity and high density of CD8+ TIL).

Conclusions: High infiltration by CD8+ TIL is associated with better survival outcomes. Positive PD-L1 expression correlates with a high infiltration by TILs, explaining its association with better prognosis.

CITATION  Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2020 Oct;69(10):2089-2100. doi: 10.1007/s00262-020-02604-w. Epub 2020 May 24.