Immune biomarker expression in the tumor microenvironment in Chinese patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma was explored

Author:Pengfei Li, Hongli Luo, Yanhui Chen, Yating Wang, Huan Chen, Lihong Wu, Yegang Ma, Henghui Zhang; Department of Thoracic Surgery, Cancer Hospital of China Medical University,Liao ning Cancer Hospital and Institute, Shen Yang, China

Background: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is one of the most common malignancies in China, of which the standard treatment of advanced esophageal cancer is chemotherapy followed by surgery. Recently, immunotherapy has shown great potential in ESCC treatment. The aim of this study was to explore the landscape of immune-related gene expression in the tumor microenvironment (TIME) and further explore the relationship between immune biomarkers and therapeutic effect. 

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed PDL1(clone sp142)/PD1 expression in a cohort of Chinese patients (male = 92, female = 18; median age = 64, range from 36 to 84) with ESCC. Patient samples were detected in Genecast. Co. from February 2017 to November 2018. Another 6 patients (male = 4, female = 2) who accepted anti-PD1/PD-L1 antibody treatment were analyzed. PD-L1/PD-1 expression and the incidence of CD8, CD57, CD68, CD163 TILs were immunohistochemically. 

Results: In tumor cells, more than 32% (36/110) samples of ESCC patients was stained with PDL1 (≥1%), while52.8% (21/36) of these patients highly expressed PDL1 (≥10%, 10%-98%). In tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), 31.82% (35/110) patients expressed PDL1 (≥1%) and 1.82% (2/110) highly expressed PDL1 (≥10%, 10%-50%). For PD1 expression in TILs, 17.27% (19/110) samples were positively stained with PD1 antibody (≥1%). In a subset of ESCC patients who received immune checkpoint blockade therapy (including 2 responders and 4 non-responders), the median percentage of CD163, CD68, PDL1, CD8, PD1 and CD57 were 1.49% (0.44%-9.98%), 0.40% (0.16%-19.08%), 3.74% (0%-45%), 9.52% (4.20%-13.79%), 4.51% (1.37%-33.43%) and 0.68% (0.08%-1.74%), respectively in tumor area and 4.14% (1.85%-15.99%), 1.62% (0.21%-11.47%), 4.87% (0.33%-18.97%), 7.74% (5.88%-14.35%), 3.93% (1.92%-20.54%) and 0.92% (0.27%-2.18%), respectively in stroma area. When compared with non-responders, samples from the responders showed higher CD8 expression in tumor area. 

Conclusions: Percentage of PDL1/PD1 expression is relatively high in Chinese patients with ESCC. High levels of CD8 positive TILs might be beneficial to patients with ESCC. Clinical investigations with large sample sizes are warranted to prove our findings.