Stromal PD-L1 Expression Is Associated With Better Disease-Free Survival in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

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Objectives: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive subtype of breast cancer, and there is no approved targeted therapy. We studied the expression of programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) and its ligand (PD-L1) in TNBC.

Methods: Full-face sections from 136 TNBC cases without neoadjuvant therapy between 2004 and 2013 were stained and evaluated for immune cell PD-1 staining and stromal or tumoral PD-L1 staining using the H-score (staining percentage × intensity). Nottingham histologic grade, lymphovascular invasion (LVI), mitotic count, and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) were evaluated. Tumor size, lymph node status, Ki-67 score, metastasis, overall survival (OS), and disease-free survival (DFS) were retrieved from medical records.

Results: Of the 136 TNBC cases, 69 (51%) had any PD-L1 staining and 35 (26%) had PD-L1 staining with an H-score of 5 or more; 117 (86%) had any PD-1 staining and 68 (50%) had PD-1 staining with an H-score of 5 or more. Tumor size and LVI were significantly associated with worse OS and DFS, and TILs and LVI were significantly associated with metastasis in univariate analysis. Stromal PD-L1 expression was significantly associated with better DFS in multivariate analysis. PD-1 expression was not associated with DFS, OS, or metastasis.

Conclusions: PD-L1 expression is seen in a high proportion of TNBCs and associated with better DFS.

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