The prevalence of programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) expression in non-small cell lung cancer in an unselected, consecutive population

Little is known about prevalence of PD-L1 expression in tumor cells of unselected patients with all stages of non-small cell lung cancer. The objective of this study is to assess the prevalence of PD-L1 positivity in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, to analyze the association between PD-L1 positivity and patients’ clinicopathological characteristics, and to assess the use of immune-oncologic treatment in eligible patients. All non-small cell lung cancer patients diagnosed in a 10-month period in an unselected population of 1.7 million Caucasian inhabitants were evaluated with the PD-L1 IHC 22C3 pharmDx kit. A total of 819 patients were diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. Samples analyzable for PD-L1 expression were obtained from 97% of patients. In a multivariate analysis with cut-off at tumor proportion score ≥50%, lower stage was associated with lower prevalence of PD-L1 positivity with an odds ratio of 0.31 for stage I vs. stage IV. A significant difference in PD-L1 expression between squamous-cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma was observed with odds ratio for adenocarcinoma 1.8. With cut-off tumor proportion score ≥1%, attenuated effects of the same direction were seen. For neither cut-off did type and location of material used for PD-L1 analysis, age, sex, smoking history, or performance status have statistically significant impact on the PD-L1 expression. Fifty four percent of the patients who were eligible for immune-oncologic treatment were actually treated in first-line with pembrolizumab monotherapy. In conclusion, 97% of the patients had material analyzable for PD-L1. If a patient in need of immuno-oncologic treatment has shifted stage, a negative or low positive PD-L1 test performed on a biopsy taken in a lower stage might not mirror the PD-L1 expression in the new metastatic lesion. Therefore, a re-biopsy should be considered.