School of Medical and Health Sciences
Anti-programmed cell death (PD)-1/PD-ligand 1 (L1) therapies have significantly improved the outcomes for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients in recent years. These therapies work by reactivating the immune system and enabling it to target cancer cells once more. There is a general agreement that expression of PD-L1 on tumour cells predicts the therapeutic response to PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors in NSCLC. Hence, immunohistochemical staining of tumour tissue biopsies from NSCLC patients with PD-L1 antibodies is the current standard used to aid selection of patients for treatment with anti-PD-1 as first line therapy. However, issues of small tissue samples, tissue heterogeneity, the emergence of new metastatic sites, and dynamic changes in the expression of PD-L1 may influence PD-L1 status during disease evolution. Re-biopsy would expose patients to the risk of complications and tardy results. Analysis of PD-L1 expression on circulating tumour cells (CTCs) may provide an accessible and non-invasive means to select patients for anti-PD-1 therapies. Additionally, CTCs could potentially provide a useful biomarker in their own right. Several published studies have assessed PD-L1 expression on CTCs from NSCLC patients. Overall, analysis of PD-L1 on CTCs is feasible and could be detected prior to and after frontline therapy. However, there is no evidence on whether PD-L1 expression on CTCs could predict the response to anti-PD-1/PD-L1 treatment. This review examines the challenges that need to be addressed to demonstrate the clinical validity of PD-L1 analysis in CTCs as a biomarker capable of predicting the response to immune checkpoint blockade.
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