Characterization of PD-L1 expression and associated T-cell infiltrates in metastatic melanoma samples from variable anatomic sites

Harriet M. Kluger, Christopher R. Zito, Meaghan L. Barr, Marina K. Baine, Veronica L S Chiang, Mario Sznol, David L. Rimm, Lieping Chen, Lucia B. Jilaveanu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Purpose: Programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) tumor expression represents a mechanism of immune escape for melanoma cells. Drugs blocking PD-L1 or its receptor have shown unprecedented activity in melanoma, and our purpose was to characterize tumor PD-L1 expression and associated T-cell infiltration in metastatic melanomas. Experimental Design: We used a tissue microarray (TMA) consisting of two cores from 95 metastatic melanomas characterized for clinical stage, outcome, and anatomic site of disease. We assessed PD-L1 expression and tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) content (total T cells and CD4/CD8 subsets) by quantitative immunofluorescence. Results: High PD-L1 expression was associated with improved survival (P = 0.02) and higher T-cell content (P = 0.0005). Higher T-cell content (total and CD8 cells) was independently associated with improved overall survival; PD-L1 expression was not independently prognostic. High TIL content in extracerebral metastases was associated with increased time to developing brain metastases (P = 0.03). Cerebral and dermal metastases had slightly lower PD-L1 expression than other sites, not statistically significant. Cerebral metastases had less T cells (P = 0.01). Conclusions: T-cell-infiltrated melanomas, particularly those with high CD8 T-cell content, are more likely to be associated with PD-L1 expression in tumor cells, an improved prognosis, and increased time to development of brain metastases. Studies of T-cell content and subsets should be incorporated into trials of PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors to determine their predictive value. Furthermore, additional studies of anatomic sites with less PD-L1 expression and T-cell infiltrate are needed to determine if discordant responses to PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors are seen at those sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3052-3060
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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