PURPOSE: To evaluate the clinical-pathological and prognostic significance of the circulating PD-L1 level in patients with surgically treated NSCLC, by combining data for PD-L1 expression with other immune-related markers and tumor metabolism.
METHODS: Overall, 40 patients with resected NSCLC (stage Ia-IIIa) who had preoperative blood storage and underwent staging PET/CT were enrolled for the study. In all cases, we determined plasma levels of PD-L1 (pg/ml), immune-reactive areas (IRA %) covered by CD3, CD68, CD20, CD8, PD-1, and PD-L1 in the tumor specimen, and metabolic parameters on PET, i.e., SUVmax, SUVpeak, metabolic tumor volume (MTV), and total lesion glycolysis (TLG). Variables were statistically analyzed to establish their association with disease-free survival (DFS).
RESULTS: The circulating levels of PD-L1 in the bloodstream could be determined in 38/40 (95%) samples. The mean and median expression levels were 34.86 pg/ml and 24.83 pg/ml, respectively. We did not find any statistically significant correlation between circulating PD-L1 and tissue expression of PD-L1/PD-1. Some mild degree of positive correlation was determined between tissue PD-L1 and SUVmax (ρ = 0.390; p = 0.0148). Hierarchical clustering combining circulating, tissue, and metabolic parameters identified clusters with high metabolic tumor burden or high expression of plasma PD-L1 levels (Z score ≥ 2) as having a poor DFS (p = 0.033). The multivariate analysis detected stage and metabolism (i.e., SUVmax and SUVpeak) as independent prognostic factors for DFS.
CONCLUSION: Plasma levels of PD-L1 are independent of the expression of PD-1/PD-L1 in NSCLC tumor tissue and, when combined with other clinical-pathological parameters, allow for the identification of clusters with different outcomes.
- Aged, 80 and over
- B7-H1 Antigen/genetics
- Blood Proteins/genetics
- Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung/diagnosis
- Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
- Lung Neoplasms/diagnosis
- Middle Aged
- Neoplasm Staging
- Survival Analysis
- Treatment Outcome
- Tumor Burden