The antitumor efficacies of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) and the usefulness of potential predictive markers such as programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression, density of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and microsatellite instability (MSI) in sinonasal squamous cell carcinoma (SNSCC) have not been fully elucidated. We retrospectively analyzed 131 SNSCCs with immunohistochemistry for PD-L1 expression, TIL subpopulations and loss of mismatch repair (MMR) proteins as a surrogate for MSI-high. We also comprehensively evaluated the mutual relationships among these immuno-markers, high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene status, and KRAS mutation. PD-L1 expression (tumor proportion score ≥ 1%) was detected in 60 (45.8%) SNSCC cases and was significantly associated with worse overall survival (OS) (p = 0.0240). High density of cluster of differentiation 8 (CD8)-positive TILs was significantly associated with better progression-free survival (PFS) (p = 0.0368), and high density of forkhead box protein P3-positive TILs was significantly associated with better PFS and OS (p = 0.0007 and 0.0143, respectively). With respect to the combination of CD8 + TIL and PD-L1 expression, the high-CD8/PD-L1-negative group showed the most favorable prognosis, whereas the low-CD8/PD-L1-positive group showed the worst prognosis. MMR loss was detected in 3 (2.3%) of the 131 cases. HPV infection (6.1%), EGFR mutation (14.5%), EGFR copy number gain (26%), and MMR loss were essentially mutually exclusive; patients in these molecular groups showed significant differences in prognosis but not in the degree of PD-L1 expression or TILs. Among the nine ICI-treated patients, three (33.3%) were responders, and the EGFR-wild type cases (n = 7) showed better clinical responses to an ICI compared to the EGFR-mutant cases (n = 2). Among the patients with residual/recurrent EGFR-wild type tumors (n = 43), ICI treatment significantly improved OS (p = 0.0281). The results suggest that the evaluation of immuno-markers and molecular subclassification may be helpful for prognostic prediction and selecting an individualized therapeutic strategy for patients with SNSCC.
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