Lung cancer is the leading cause of death due to cancer worldwide. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy have been the standard treatment for lung cancer, and targeted molecular therapy has greatly improved the clinical course of patients with non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) harboring driver mutations, such as in epidermal growth factor receptor and anaplastic lymphoma kinase genes. Despite advances in such therapies, the prognosis of patients with NSCLC without driver oncogene mutations remains poor. Immunotherapy targeting programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) and programmed cell death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) has recently been shown to improve the survival in advanced NSCLC. The PD-L1 expression on the surface of tumor cells has emerged as a potential biomarker for predicting responses to immunotherapy and prognosis after surgery in NSCLC. However, the utility of PD-L1 expression as a predictive and prognostic biomarker remains controversial because of the existence of various PD-L1 antibodies, scoring systems, and positivity cutoffs. In this review, we summarize the data from representative clinical trials of PD-1/PD-L1 immune checkpoint inhibitors in NSCLC and previous reports on the association between PD-L1 expression and clinical outcomes in patients with NSCLC. Furthermore, we discuss the future perspectives of immunotherapy and immune checkpoint factors.
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