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Original article

Vol. 153 No. 9 (2023)

Prognostic implication of PD-L1 in early-stage non-small cell lung cancer: a retrospective single-centre study

  • Elona Cekani
  • Carolina Martorell
  • Francesco Martucci
  • Miriam Patella
  • Stefano Cafarotti
  • Antonio Valenti
  • Stefania Freguia
  • Francesca Molinari
  • Patrizia Froesch
  • Milo Frattini
  • Anastasios Stathis
  • Luciano Wannesson
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2023;153:40110


BACKGROUND: The prognostic role of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression in patients with localised and locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer has not been fully elucidated. This information could help to better interpret recent and upcoming results of phase III adjuvant or neoadjuvant anti-PD-1/PD-L1 immunotherapy studies.

METHODS: In a cohort of 146 patients with early or locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer treated with curative intent (by surgery or radiotherapy), we investigated the prognostic value of PD-L1 expression and its correlation with other biological and clinical features. PD-L1 expression was stratified by quartiles. Primary endpoints were overall and disease-free survival. We also analysed the prognostic impact of the presence of actionable mutations, implemented treatment modality and completion of the treatment plan. Neither type of patient received neoadjuvant or adjuvant immunotherapy or target therapy.

RESULTS: Of the 146 selected patients, 32 (21.9%) presented disease progression and 15 died (10.3%) at a median follow-up of 20 months. In a univariable analysis, PD-L1 expression ≥25% was associated with significantly lower disease-free survival (hazard ratio [HR]) 1.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0–3.9, p = 0.049). PD-L1 expression ≥50% did not lead to disease-free survival or overall survival benefits (HR 1.2 and 1.1, respectively; 95% CI 0.6–2.6 and 0.3–3.4, respectively; pnot significant). In a multivariate analysis, a stage >I (HR 2.7, 95% CI 1.2–6, p = 0.012) and having an inoperable tumour (HR 3.2, 95% CI 1.4–7.4, p = 0.005) were associated with lower disease-free survival.

CONCLUSION: The population of patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer and PD-L1 expression ≥25% who were treated with curative intent during the pre-immunotherapy era exhibited a worse prognosis. This finding provides justification for the utilisation of adjuvant immunotherapy in this subgroup of patients, based on the current evidence derived from disease-free survival outcomes. However, for patients with PD-L1 expression <25%, opting to wait for the availability of the overall survival results may be a prudent choice.


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