The tumor microenvironments of paired primary lung cancers and brain metastases are significantly different, such that many of the metastases lose PD-L1 expression, lymphocyte infiltration or both with greater discrepancies over time. The spatial and temporal heterogeneity of PD-L1 expression may limit its use as a tissue-based predictive biomarker in lung cancer.
The dynamics of PD-L1 expression may limit its use as a tissue-based predictive biomarker. We sought to expand our understanding of the dynamics of PD-L1 expression and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in patients with lung cancer-related brain metastases.
Paired primary lung cancers and brain metastases were identified and assessed for PD-L1 and CD3 expression by immunohistochemistry. Lesions with 5% or greater PD-L1 expression were considered positive. Agreement statistics and the χ 2 or Fisher's exact test were used for analysis.
We analyzed 146 paired lesions from 73 cases. There was disagreement of tumor cell PD-L1 expression in 10 cases (14%, κ = 0.71), and disagreement of TIL PD-L1 expression in 19 cases (26%, κ = 0.38). Most paired lesions with discordant tumor cell expression of PD-L1 were obtained 6 or more months apart. When specimens were categorized using a proposed tumor microenvironment categorization scheme based on PD-L1 expression and TILs, there were significant changes in the classifications because many of the brain metastases lacked either PD-L1 expression, tumor lymphocyte infiltration or both even when they were present in the primary lung cancer specimens ( P = 0.009).
We identified that there are significant differences between the tumor microenvironment of paired primary lung cancers and brain metastases. When physicians decide to treat patients with lung cancer with a PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitor, they must do so in the context of the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the tumor microenvironment.