[Efficacy of PD-1/PD-L1 immune checkpoint inhibitors and PD-L1 testing in thoracic cancers]

Michaël Duruisseaux, Isabelle Rouquette, Julien Adam, Alexis Cortot, Aurélie Cazes, Laure Gibault, Diane Damotte, Sylvie Lantuejoul
Annales de Pathologie 2017, 37 (1): 61-78
Tumoral immune environment is a major component of cancer. Its composition and its organization represent a reproducible characteristic of tumors and a validated prognostic factor. In non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), cytotoxic T CD8+ lymphocyte density, associated with a Th1 environment and tertiary lymphoid structures impacts survival. Tumor cell-immune cell interaction is targeted by PD1/PD-L1 inhibitors. In advanced NSCLC, PD1/PD-L1 inhibitors are more effective than second-line chemotherapy. Pembrolizumab outperforms first-line chemotherapy in NSCLC strongly positive for PD-L1. PD1/PD-L1 inhibitors are currently tested in mesothelioma and thymic tumors. PD-L1 expression evaluated with immunochemistry is the most studied predictive biomarker of PD1/PD-L1 inhibitor efficacy. Tumor and immune cell expression of PD-L1 is still difficult to evaluate because of intra-tumoral heterogeneity and expression modulation by the microenvironment. Four commercial diagnostic antibodies are in development, with differences concerning recognized epitopes, methodology of evaluation of PD-L1 expression, positivity threshold, kit and platforms used. Clinical trials in NSCLC have shown that patients with tumors strongly positive for PD-L1 derived the best clinical benefit with PD1/PD-L1 inhibitors whereas clinical benefit is less common in tumors negative for PD-L1. PD-L1 expression is not a perfect biomarker since some PD-L1 negative NSCLC respond to PD1/PD-L1 inhibitors and some PD-L1 positive NSCLC do not. PD-L1 testing is likely to be implemented in daily practice for selection of advanced NSCLC that will be treated with pembrolizumab, underscoring the relevance of ongoing harmonization studies of the use of the different antibodies available for PD-L1 testing.

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