PD-1 and PD-L1 expression in renal cell carcinoma with sarcomatoid differentiation

Richard W Joseph, Sherri Z. Millis, Estrella M. Carballido, David Bryant, Zoran Gatalica, Sandeep Reddy, Alan H Bryce, Nicholas J. Vogelzang, Melissa L. Stanton, Erik P Castle, Thai H Ho

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67 Scopus citations


Monoclonal antibodies that target the programmed death-1 (PD-1)-programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) axis have antitumor activity against multiple cancers. The presence of sarco-matoid differentiation in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is associated with resistance to targeted therapy and poor responses to IL2 immunotherapy. Given the aggressive nature of RCC with sarco-matoid differentiation and the exclusion of sarcomatoid histology from metastatic RCC clinical trials, less is understood regarding selection of therapies. Here, we characterized the PD-1/PD-L1 axis in RCC with sarcomatoid differentiation. We directly compared two PD-L1 antibodies and found concordance of PD-L1 positivity in 89% of tested RCCs with sarcomatoid differentiation. Coexpression of PD-L1 on neoplastic cells and the presence of PD-1-positive tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes were identified in 50% (13 of 26) of RCCs with sarcomatoid differentiation. In contrast, only 1 of 29 clear cell RCCs (3%) had concurrent expression of PD-L1 and PD-1 (P = 0.002). Our study suggests that RCC with sarcomatoid differentiation may express PD-1/PD-L1 at a higher percentage than RCC without sarcomatoid differentiation, and patients with these tumors may be good candidates for treatment with anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1303-1307
Number of pages5
JournalCancer immunology research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Immunology

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