The Immune Microenvironment, Genome-wide Copy Number Aberrations, and Survival in Mesothelioma

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Results of recent clinical studies of immune checkpoint inhibitors in malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) have dampened initial enthusiasm. However, the immune environment and targets of these treatments such as programmed cell death protein 1 and its ligand programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) have not been well characterized in MPM. Using a large cohort of patients, we investigated PD-L1 expression, immune infiltrates, and genome-wide copy number status and correlated them to clinicopathological features.


Tissue microarrays were constructed and stained with PD-L1(clone E1L3N [Cell Signaling Technology, Danvers, MA]), cluster of differentiation 4, cluster of differentiation 8, and forkhead box P3 antibodies. PD-L1 positivity was defined as at least 5% membranous staining regardless of intensity, and high PD-L1 positivity was defined as at least 50%. Genomic DNA from a representative subset of 113 patients was used for genome-wide copy number analysis. The percent genome alteration was computed as a proxy for genomic instability, and statistical analyses were used to relate copy number aberrations to other variables.


Among 329 patients evaluated, PD-L1 positivity was detected in 130 of 311 (41.7%), but high PD-L1 positivity was seen in only 30 of 311 (9.6%). PD-L1 positivity correlated with nonepithelioid histological subtype and increased infiltration with cluster of differentiation 4–positive, cluster of differentiation 8–positive, and forkhead box P3–positive lymphocytes. High PD-L1–positive expression correlated with worse prognosis (hazard ratio = 2.37, 95% confidence interval: 1.57–3.56, p < 0.001) in univariate analysis but not in multivariate analysis. Higher percent genome alteration was associated with epithelioid histological subtype and poorer survival (hazard ratio = 1.59, 95% confidence interval: 1.01–2.5, p = 0.04) but not PD-L1 expression.


PD-L1 expression was associated with nonepithelioid MPM, poor clinical outcome, and increased immunological infiltrates. Increased genomic instability did not correlate with PD-L1 expression but was associated with poorer survival.

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