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ESMO Open. 2017 May 2;2(2):e000150. doi: 10.1136/esmoopen-2016-000150. eCollection 2017.

Tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes are correlated with higher expression levels of PD-1 and PD-L1 in early breast cancer.

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Department of Breast and Medical Oncology, National Cancer Center Hospital, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Medical Oncology, Cancer Institute Hospital, Tokyo, Japan.
Division of Pathology and Clinical Laboratories, National Cancer Center Hospital, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Breast Surgery, National Cancer Center Hospital, Tokyo, Japan.
Department of Basic Pathology, National Defense Medical College, Saitama, Japan.



The presence of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) is a favourable prognostic factor in patients with early breast cancer. Programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) and its ligand PD-L1 are associated with a variety of adverse features. The purpose of this study was to clarify the relationships between TILs, PD-1 and PD-L1 as well as their prognostic implications in early breast cancer.


We investigated 180 patients with breast cancer who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy and underwent subsequent surgery for stage II-III invasive breast carcinoma between 1999 and 2007. TIL expression was classified as low or high using a previously reported scoring model. PD-1 and PD-L1 expression levels were determined by immunohistochemistry. The correlation between PD-1 expression in TILs and PD-L1 expression in cancer cells was also investigated.


Higher tumour grade was significantly correlated with PD-L1 expression in tumours (p<0.0001). PD-1 and PD-L1 expression levels were associated with tumour subtype and were highest in triple-negative tumours (p<0.0001). Furthermore, expression of each of PD-1 and PD-L1 was significantly correlated with higher TIL expression and pathological complete response (pCR) (p<0.0001). PD-L1 expression in cancer cells was significantly correlated with PD-1 expression in TILs (p=0.03). The correlations between pCR and expression of each of PD-L1 and PD-1 were not significant.


Expression of PD-L1 and PD-1 in early breast cancer is associated with higher TIL scores and pCR; conversely, expression of these proteins correlates with poor prognostic clinicopathological factors such as tumour grade and subtype. TILs, PD-1 and PD-L1 can potentially predict the response to treatment.


PD-1; PD-L1; breast cancer; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes

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