Distinct Patterns of PD-L1 and PD-L2 Expression By Tumor and Non-Tumor Cells in Patients with MM, MDS and AML

Monique Dail, Long Yang, Cherie Green, Connie Ma, Alberto Robert, Edward E. Kadel, Harmut Koeppen, Joanne Adamkewicz, John Byon, Joseph Woodard, Scott J Rodig and Jeffrey M Venstrom


Introduction:Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) contributes to tumor escape from immune surveillance by binding to programmed death-1 (PD-1), a negative regulator of T-cell responses. PD-L1 is expressed by both tumor cells and immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. In contrast, the role of PD-L2 in tumor immunity is unclear. To better understand the contribution of PD-L1/L2 to immune escape in marrow-based hematologic malignancies, we used multi-color flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry (IHC) to characterize cell-specific PD-L1/PD-L2 expression in patients with multiple myeloma (MM), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

Results:PD-L1 was detectable (> 2% positive cells) in 100% of patients, with distinct disease-specific patterns. PD-L1 was expressed most widely in MM, predominantly by malignant plasma cells (median, 95% of plasma cells; n = 5) and lymphocytes (median, 12% of marrow lymphocytes; n = 5). In contrast, in MDS and AML, PD-L1 was more commonly expressed by non-tumor hematopoietic cells: MDS median, 36% of CD34− myeloid precursors and 47% of lymphocytes (n = 13) vs 12% of CD34+ myeloid blasts; AML median, 19% of CD34− myeloid precursors and 26% of lymphocytes (n = 7) vs 16% of CD34+ myeloid blasts were PD-L1+. A higher proportion of CD8+ T cells expressed PD-L1 compared with CD4+ T cells in all 3 malignancies: the CD8:CD4 ratio for PD-L1+ T cells was 3.02 in MM (n = 11), 1.92 in MDS (n = 10), and 1.29 in AML (n = 7). PD-L2 expression was largely absent in AML and MDS (< 2% of CD34+ blasts or lymphocytes expressed PD-L2 (n = 13 MDS and n = 7 AML) but was expressed in a subset of patients with MM on plasma cells (median, 18%; n = 5) but not lymphocytes (< 2%). Across all indications on both tumor cells and lymphocytes, PD-L1 was expressed by a larger fraction of cells than PD-L2 (AML: CD34+ blasts, P < .01 and lymphocytes, P = .005 [n = 7]; MDS: CD34+ blasts, P < .01 and lymphocytes, P = .0001 [n = 13]; MM: plasma cells, P = .03 and lymphocytes, P = .04 [n = 5]). These results were confirmed in a distinct set of 16 cases of primary AML analyzed independently, with detectable PD-L1 expression on myeloid blasts in 14 of 16 cases (88%) without co-expression of PD-L2 (0 of 16 cases). Comparisons of flow cytometry and IHC revealed that some IHC methods may underestimate the prevalence of PD-L1/PD-L2 in marrow-based hematologic malignancies, and results comparing different methods for detecting PD-L1/PD-L2 in the bone marrow will be presented.

Conclusions:PD-L1 is highly prevalent in MM, MDS and AML, with significant expression by non-tumor hematopoietic cells, particularly CD8+ T cells. PD-L2 expression was largely absent in myeloid diseases but detectable in MM. Interestingly, PD-L1 expression was most common on tumor cells in MM and on non-tumor hematopoietic cells in MDS, whereas expression on non-tumor and tumor cells in AML was comparable. These data support clinical development of anti-PD-L1/PD-1 therapies in MM, MDS and AML. Future analyses will determine whether different patterns of PD-L1 expression are associated with clinical efficacy.

Authors M Dail, L Yang, S Rodig, and J Venstrom contributed equally to this work.

Disclosures Dail: Genentech, Inc.: Employment. Green: Genentech, Inc.: Employment. Ma: Genentech, Inc.: Employment. Robert: Genentech, Inc.: Employment. Kadel: Genentech, Inc.: Employment. Koeppen: Roche: Employment, Equity Ownership. Adamkewicz: Genentech, Inc.: Employment. Byon: Genentech, Inc.: Employment. Woodard: Genentech, Inc.: Employment. Rodig: Bristol-Myers Squibb: Honoraria, Research Funding; Perkin Elmer: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees. Venstrom: Genentech: Employment.

  • * Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.