Prognostic effect of different PD-L1 expression patterns in squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma of the cervix

A. Marijne Heeren, Simone Punt, Maaike Cg Bleeker, Katja N. Gaarenstroom, Jacobus van der Velden, Gemma G. Kenter, Tanja D. de Gruijl, Ekaterina S. Jordanova

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204 Citations (Scopus)


Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) is expressed in various immune cells and tumor cells, and is able to bind to PD-1 on T lymphocytes, thereby inhibiting their function. At present, the PD-1/PD-L1 axis is a major immunotherapeutic target for checkpoint inhibition in various cancer types, but information on the clinical significance of PD-L1 expression in cervical cancer is largely lacking. Here, we studied PD-L1 expression in paraffin-embedded samples from two cohorts of patients with cervical cancer: primary tumor samples from cohort I (squamous cell carcinoma, n=156 and adenocarcinoma, n=49) and primary and paired metastatic tumor samples from cohort II (squamous cell carcinoma, n=96 and adenocarcinoma, n=31). Squamous cell carcinomas were more frequently positive for PD-L1 and also contained more PD-L1-positive tumor-associated macrophages as compared with adenocarcinomas (both P <0.001). PD-L1-positive tumor-associated macrophages were found to express CD163 and/or CD14 by triple fluorescent immunohistochemistry, demonstrating an M2-like phenotype. Interestingly, disease-free survival (P=0.022) and disease-specific survival (P=0.046) were significantly poorer in squamous cell carcinoma patients with diffuse PD-L1 expression as compared with patients with marginal PD-L1 expression (i.e., on the interface between tumor and stroma) in primary tumors. Disease-specific survival was significantly worse in adenocarcinoma patients with PD-L1-positive tumor-associated macrophages compared with adenocarcinoma patients without PD-L1-positive tumor-associated macrophages (P=0.014). No differences in PD-L1 expression between primary tumors and paired metastatic lymph nodes were detected. However, PD-L1-positive immune cells were found in greater abundance around the metastatic tumors as compared with the paired primary tumors (P=0.001 for squamous cell carcinoma and P=0.041 for adenocarcinoma). These findings point to a key role of PD-L1 in immune escape of cervical cancer, and provide a rationale for therapeutic targeting of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)753-763
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016

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