In situ tumor PD-L1 mRNA expression is associated with increased TILs and better outcome in breast carcinomas

Author(s): Schalper KA, Velcheti V, Carvajal D, Wimberly H, Brown J, et al.


Purpose: Blockade of the PD-1/PD-L1 axis emerged as a promising new therapeutic option for cancer that has resulted in lasting responses in metastatic renal, lung carcinomas, and melanomas. Tumor PD-L1 protein expression may predict response to drugs targeting this pathway. Measurement of PD-L1 protein is limited by the lack of standardized immunohistochemical methods and variable performance of antibodies. Our goal was to correlate PD-L1 mRNA expression with clinical variables in primary breast carcinomas. Experimental Design: The fluorescent RNAscope paired-primer assay was used to quantify in situ PD-L1 mRNA levels in 636 stage I–III breast carcinomas on two sets of tissue microarrays [YTMA128 (n = 238) and YTMA201 (n = 398)]. Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) were assessed by hematoxylin/eosin stain and quantitative fluorescence. Results: On YTMA128 and YTMA201, 55.7% and 59.5% of cases showed PD-L1 mRNA expression, respectively. Higher PD-L1 mRNA expression was significantly associated with increased TILs (P = 0.04) but not with other clinical variables. Elevated TILs (scores 2 and 3+) occurred in 16.5% on YTMA128 and 14.8% on YTMA201 and was associated with estrogen receptor–negative status (P = 0.01 on YTMA128 and 0.0001 on YTMA201). PD-L1 mRNA expression was associated with longer recurrence-free survival (log-rank P = 0.01), which remained significant in multivariate analysis including age, tumor size, histologic grade, nodal metastasis, hormone receptor, HER2 status, and the extent of TILs (HR, 0.268; CI, 0.099–0.721; P = 0.009). Conclusions: PD-L1 mRNA expression is identified in nearly 60% of breast tumors and it is associated with increased TILs and improved recurrence-free survival. These observations support the evaluation of PD-1/PD-L1–targeted therapies in breast cancer. Clin Cancer Res; 20(10); 2773–82. ©2014 AACR.

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