Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) is an immune modulator that promotes immunosuppression by binding to programmed death-1 of T-lymphocytes. Although tumor cell PD-L1 expression has been shown to be associated with the clinical response to anti–PD-L1 antibodies, its concise regulatory mechanisms remain elusive. In this study, we evaluated the associations of tumor PD-L1 expression and immune cell infiltrating patterns in 146 cases of early lung adenocarcinoma (AC) to investigate the possible extrinsic regulation of tumor PD-L1 by immune cells. Using immunohistochemistry, cell surface PD-L1 expression in tumor cells was observed in 18.5% of stage 0-IA lung AC patients. Tumor PD-L1 positivity was significantly associated with stromal invasion, which was accompanied by increased tumor-associated macrophages (TAM), CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and FoxP3+ regulatory T cells. Among these immune cells, TAM and CD8+ T cells significantly accumulated in PD-L1-positive carcinoma cell areas, which showed a tumor cell nest-infiltrating pattern. Although CD8+ T cells are known to induce tumor PD-L1 expression via interferon-ɣ production, the increased TAM within tumors were also associated with tumor cell PD-L1 positivity, independently of CD8+ T cell infiltration. Our in vitro experiments revealed that PD-L1 expression in lung cancer cell lines was significantly upregulated by co–culture with M2-differentiated macrophages; expression of PD-L1 was reduced to baseline levels following treatment with a transforming growth factor-β inhibitor. These results demonstrated that tumor-infiltrating TAM are extrinsic regulators of tumor PD-L1 expression, indicating that combination therapy targeting both tumor PD-L1 and stromal TAM might be a possible strategy for effective treatment of lung cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research