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Original article

Vol. 153 No. 1 (2023)

Overall survival and role of programmed death ligand 1 expression in patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer and immunotherapy: an observational study from central Switzerland

  • Valentina Allmann
  • Daniela Dyntar
  • Dirk Lehnick
  • Marco Dressler
  • Kristin Zeidler
  • Philipp Niederberger
  • Jeanne Godau
  • Joachim Diebold
  • Oliver Gautschi
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2023;153:40039


BACKGROUND: In clinical trials, therapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors has improved the survival of patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). These trials were important for drug approval and for defining new treatment standards but the effect of checkpoint inhibitors in patients treated outside of clinical trials is not well known. The goal of this study was to assess the effect of immunotherapy on the overall survival of patients with metastatic NSCLC in the region of central Switzerland.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The study included 274 patients with histologically confirmed metastatic (stage IV) NSCLC in central Switzerland in the years 2015 to 2018. Patients with NSCLC and actionable driver mutations were excluded. Patients with checkpoint inhibitor treatment (immuno-oncology [IO] group, n = 122) were compared with patients without checkpoint inhibitor treatment (no-IO group, n = 152). Baseline demographics, disease characteristics and therapies applied were collected retrospectively. The primary endpoint was median overall survival calculated either from diagnosis or from the start of checkpoint inhibitor therapy to death or data cut-off (21 July 2021). We used the Kaplan-Meier method and an adjusted Cox proportional-hazards regression model. The expression of programmed-death ligand 1 (PD-L1) on tumour cells was used for exploratory analysis.

RESULTS: Patients had a median age of 68.4 years, most were male (61.7%) and more than half were current or former smokers (65%). A test for PD-L1 expression was available for 55.8% of the tumours. Patients in the IO group were younger than patients in the no-IO group. Among the 122 patients in the IO group, the median overall survival was 15 months (95% confidence interval [CI] 12–20). In the no-IO group, the median overall survival was 4 months (95% CI 3–7) with chemotherapy and 2 months (95% CI 1–2) with best supportive care. Patients with high (≥50%) PD-L1 expression and checkpoint inhibitor therapy had a slightly longer overall survival than patients with low PD-L1 and checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

CONCLUSION: These results suggest that treatment with checkpoint inhibitors improves overall survival in patients with metastatic NSCLC and that PD-L1 expression could have a predictive value in patients treated outside of clinical trials. Further studies are needed to study the magnitude of the benefit of checkpoint inhibitors according to molecular NSCLC subtype.


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