Correlation of PD-L1 tumor expression and treatment outcomes in patients with renal cell carcinoma receiving sunitinib or pazopanib: results from COMPARZ, a randomized controlled trial

Toni K Choueiri, David J Figueroa, André P Fay, Sabina Signoretti, Yuan Liu, Robert Gagnon, Keith Deen, Christopher Carpenter, Peter Benson, Thai H Ho, Lini Pandite, Paul de Souza, Thomas Powles, Robert J Motzer
Clinical Cancer Research: An Official Journal of the American Association for Cancer Research 2015 March 1, 21 (5): 1071-7

PURPOSE: The interaction of programmed death-1 ligand (PD-L1) with its receptor (PD-1) on T cells inactivates antitumor immune responses. PD-L1 expression has been associated with poor outcomes in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) but has not been investigated in advanced RCC patients receiving VEGF-targeted therapy.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded specimens were collected at baseline from patients in the COMPARZ trial. Tumor cell PD-L1 expression by IHC was evaluated using H-score (HS). Dual PD-L1/CD68 staining was used to differentiate PD-L1 tumor expression from tumor-associated macrophages. Intratumor CD8-positive T cells were quantified morphometrically. Associations between biomarkers and survival were investigated using the log-rank test.

RESULTS: HS data were available from 453 of 1,110 patients. Sixty-four percent of patients had negative PD-L1 expression (HS = 0). Patients with HS > 55 (n = 59, 13%) had significantly shorter overall survival (OS) than those with HS ≤ 55 in both pazopanib and sunitinib arms (median 15.1 vs. 35.6 and 15.3 vs. 27.8 months, respectively, P = 0.03). In both arms, median OS was shortest in patients with HS > 55 and intratumor CD8-positive T-cell counts > 300 (9.6 and 11.9 months with pazopanib and sunitinib, respectively). Median OS in patients with HS ≤ 55 and CD8-positive T-cell counts ≤ 300 was 36.8 and 28.0 months with pazopanib and sunitinib, respectively. Progression-free survival results were similar to OS results.

CONCLUSIONS: Increased tumor cell PD-L1, or PD-L1 plus tumor CD8-positive T-cell counts, were associated with shorter survival in patients with metastatic RCC receiving VEGF-targeted agents. These findings may have implications for future design of randomized clinical trials in advanced RCC.

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