Soluble PD-L1 in NSCLC Patients Treated with Checkpoint Inhibitors and Its Correlation with Metabolic Parameters

Angelo Castello, Sabrina Rossi, Luca Toschi, Luigi Mansi, Egesta Lopci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated the role of soluble PD-L1 (sPD-L1) in non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) and analyzed its association with clinical outcomes and metabolic parameters by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG-PET/CT). Between July 2017 and May 2019, we enrolled 20 candidate patients of ICI therapy who had serum frozen samples and 18F-FDG PET/CT available, both at baseline and at the first response evaluation. This analysis is embedded into a larger prospective study (NCT03563482). Twelve out of 20 patients received nivolumab, one patient received combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab, whereas the others received pembrolizumab. Median sPD-L1 level at baseline was 27.22 pg/mL. We found a significant association between patients with elevated sPD-L1, above the median value, and high metabolic tumor burden, expressed by metabolic tumor volume (MTV, 115.3 vs. 35.5, p = 0.034) and total lesion glycolysis (TLG, 687 vs. 210.1, p = 0.049). At the first restaging after 7-8 weeks, median sPD-L1 levels significantly increased as compared to baseline median value (43.9 pg/mL, p = 0.017). No significant differences in response rates were detected, according to both morphological and metabolic response criteria. Likewise, no difference in survival outcomes were observed between low sPD-L1 and high sPD-L1 patients. The increase of sPD-L1 concentrations during ICI treatment may reflect the expansion of tumor volume and the tumor lysis. Moreover, it is supposed that sPD-L1 has its own biological action, either by reducing membrane PD-1 sites available for nivolumab or by inducing lymphocytes exhaustion after binding their membrane PD-1. Further, larger studies are needed to confirm our preliminary results on the role of sPD-L1 during ICI therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - May 27 2020


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