ESMO Open. 2017 May 2;2(2):e000150. doi: 10.1136/esmoopen-2016-000150. eCollection 2017.
Tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes are correlated with higher expression levels of PD-1 and PD-L1 in early breast cancer.
BACKGROUND: The presence of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) is a favourable prognostic factor in patients with early breast cancer. Programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) and its ligand PD-L1 are associated with a variety of adverse features. The purpose of this study was to clarify the relationships between TILs, PD-1 and PD-L1 as well as their prognostic implications in early breast cancer.
METHODS: We investigated 180 patients with breast cancer who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy and underwent subsequent surgery for stage II-III invasive breast carcinoma between 1999 and 2007. TIL expression was classified as low or high using a previously reported scoring model. PD-1 and PD-L1 expression levels were determined by immunohistochemistry. The correlation between PD-1 expression in TILs and PD-L1 expression in cancer cells was also investigated.
RESULTS: Higher tumour grade was significantly correlated with PD-L1 expression in tumours (p<0.0001). PD-1 and PD-L1 expression levels were associated with tumour subtype and were highest in triple-negative tumours (p<0.0001). Furthermore, expression of each of PD-1 and PD-L1 was significantly correlated with higher TIL expression and pathological complete response (pCR) (p<0.0001). PD-L1 expression in cancer cells was significantly correlated with PD-1 expression in TILs (p=0.03). The correlations between pCR and expression of each of PD-L1 and PD-1 were not significant.
CONCLUSION: Expression of PD-L1 and PD-1 in early breast cancer is associated with higher TIL scores and pCR; conversely, expression of these proteins correlates with poor prognostic clinicopathological factors such as tumour grade and subtype. TILs, PD-1 and PD-L1 can potentially predict the response to treatment.