Purpose: The immune checkpoint of the programmed death 1/programmed death ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) pathway is believed to play an important role in evasion of host antitumor immune surveillance in various malignancies; however, little is known about its role in thymic carcinoma. This study investigated PD-1/PD-L1 expression and its association with clinicopathologic features, the expression of immune-related proteins in tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL), and patient prognosis.
Experimental Design: PD-L1 and PD-1 expression was evaluated by IHC in 25 thymic carcinoma tissue specimens. Copy number alterations of the PD-L1 gene in 11 cases were assessed in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded material using qRT-PCR.
Results: Compared with normal subjects, 3 thymic carcinoma patients showed an increase in PD-L1 copy number, whereas 8 did not. PD-L1 was significantly overexpressed in cases with copy number gain as compared with normal cases. High PD-L1 expression was associated with higher disease-free and overall survival rates as compared to cases with low expression. Prognostic analysis revealed low PD-L1 expression and high number of PD-1+ TILs as significant predictors of poor survival, together with Masaoka–Koga stage IVa/IVb disease and incomplete resection. In the quantitative analysis of TILs, PD-L1 expression correlated proportionally with the number of infiltrating CTLs.
Conclusions: Here, for the first time, we report that PD-L1 and PD-1 expression might be useful prognostic predictors in thymic carcinoma. Further studies are expected to substantiate the prognostic value of PD-L1 and PD-1 expression, and the potential efficacy of targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in thymic carcinoma via immunotherapy. Clin Cancer Res; 22(18); 4727–34. ©2016 AACR.
This article is featured in Highlights of This Issue, p. 4537
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Clinical Cancer Research Online (http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received February 17, 2016.
- Revision received April 15, 2016.
- Accepted May 3, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.