The Association Between PD-L1 Expression and the Clinical Outcomes to Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-Targeted Therapy in Patients With Metastatic Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma

Su-Jin Shin, Yoon Kyung Jeon, Yong Mee Cho, Jae-Lyun Lee, Doo Hyun Chung, Ji Young Park, Heounjeong Go
Oncologist 2015, 20 (11): 1253-60

BACKGROUND: Vascular endothelial growth factor pathway (VEGF)-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are used as the first-line treatment for patients with metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma (mCCRCC). Recently, programmed death-1 (PD-1) and programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) blockade emerged as promising therapy for renal cell carcinoma. However, the expression pattern and prognostic implication of programmed death-ligands (PD-Ls) in mCCRCC patients receiving VEGF-TKI remain unclear.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: PD-L1 and PD-L2 expression in tumor cells and the quantities of PD-1+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes were immunohistochemically evaluated in 91 mCCRCC patients treated with VEGF-TKI, and their associations with VEGF-TKI responsiveness and clinical outcome were analyzed.

RESULTS: PD-L1 immunopositivity was observed in 17.6% and significantly associated with a high International Society of Urological Pathology grade (p = .031) and sarcomatoid features (p = .014). PD-L2 immunopositivity was observed in 39.6% and was not associated with any of the assessed clinicopathological variables. PD-L1-positive cases showed poor VEGF-TKI responsiveness (p = .012) compared with PD-L1-negative cases. In univariate survival analysis, PD-L1 immunopositivity was significantly associated with shorter overall survival (OS) (p = .037) and progression-free survival (PFS) (p = .043). Multivariate survival analysis revealed that PD-L1 expression was independently associated with poor OS (p = .038) and PFS (p = .013) in addition to tumor necrosis (p = .006; p = .029, respectively) and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center score (p = .018; p = .032, respectively). PD-L2 expression was neither associated with VEGF-TKI responsiveness nor patients' outcome.

CONCLUSION: PD-L1 expression was significantly related to lack of VEGF-TKI responsiveness and independently associated with shorter survival in mCCRCC patients after VEGF-TKI treatment. PD-L1 may have a predictive and prognostic value for determining the value of VEGF-TKI treatment in patients with mCCRCC.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Vascular endothelial growth factor pathway (VEGF)-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are essential for the treatment of metastatic renal cell carcinoma patients, but the treatment suffers from a lack of predictive markers. This study demonstrates that PD-L1 expression is a predictor for unfavorable response to VEGF-TKI and a prognostic indicator for poor overall survival and progression-free survival in patients with metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma receiving VEGF-TKI.

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