Introduction: The programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) immune checkpoint is a normal regulator of the autoimmune response to inflammatory stimuli. Several cancers have taken advantage of this mechanism by harboring its ligand (PD-L1), thus activating the checkpoint to evade immune destruction. Increased expression of PD-L1 on tumor cells has been linked with worse outcomes in several cancers, including breast cancer. In triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), expression of PD-L1 is increased compared to luminal cancers and as such, has become a favorable target for anti-tumor therapies. However, few studies evaluate the impact of PD-1 and PD-L1 expression on overall survival (OS) in TNBC. The aim of this study was to assess OS based on PD-1 and PD-L1 positivity and distribution in the tumor microenvironment. Methods: All patients with newly diagnosed TNBC from 1999 to 2015 with adequate pathologic specimen were identified for evaluation. Surgical pathology specimens were stained by immunohistochemistry (IHC) for PD-1 and PD-L1. Those considered PD-1+ or PD-L1+ had a staining score of 3, 4, or 5. Patient and clinical characteristics of the adjuvant group were compared by PD-1 and PD-L1 status with Chi-Square and ANOVA, as appropriate; characteristics of the neoadjuvant population were described. OS was calculated using Kaplan-Meier method and compared by Log Rank test for PD-1, PD-L1 positivity and tumor microenvironment status. Results: Fifty-two patients met inclusion; 38 had surgery prior to chemotherapy while 14 had neoadjuvant chemotherapy. There were 15 PD-1+ patients (39%) and 21 PD-L1+ (55%) patients in the treatment naive cohort. No significant difference was found in the treatment naive group between age, race, postmenopausal status, final stage, or pathologic characteristics (e.g. tumor size, mitotic rate, and grade) for all PD-1+ and PD-L1+ patients. Of the 21 PD-L1+ patients, staining was present in the tumor, tumor/non-tumor (mixed), and non-tumor microenvironment 42.9%, 33.3%, and 23.8% of the time, respectively (p=0.008). No significant difference was found in OS between PD-1+ and PD-1- patients (p=0.509) or PD-L1+ and PD-L1- patients (p=0.240). However, distribution of PD-L1 staining significantly associated with OS. Those demonstrating PD-L1 staining in the tumor had a significantly higher OS than those with PD-L1 staining in the non-tumor microenvironment (p=0.008). In the subset of PD-L1+ patients, those with staining in the tumor show a 10-year OS of 100% versus 60% for those with staining in non-tumor (p=0.006). In the neoadjuvant cohort, 14.3% of patients expressed PD-1 positivity, while 42.9% had PD-L1 positivity; the distribution of the PD-L1 staining in tumor 14%, mixed 29%, and non-tumor 50%. No difference in OS was found based on PD-1 or PD-L1 (p=0.660) positivity in the neoadjuvant cohort. Conclusion: A large number of TNBC stain for PD-1 and/or PD-L1. The implications of this are yet to be determined. In this small cohort, pattern of staining had a significant impact on overall survival in treatment naïve patients. This finding will need to be validated on a larger cohort but may have important implications for treatment by defining patients who may benefit by checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

Citation Format: Linnaus ME, Kosiorek H, Barrett MT, Dueck A, Anderson KS, Ocal IT, McCullough AE, Annamalai L, Yearley JH, Pockaj BA. Effect of PD-1 and PD-L1 in the tumor microenvironment on overall survival of triple-negative breast cancer patients [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; 2016 Dec 6-10; San Antonio, TX. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2017;77(4 Suppl):Abstract nr PD5-03.