Infiltrating stromal immune cells in inflammatory breast cancer are associated with an improved outcome and increased PD-L1 expression

C. Van Berckelaer, C. Rypens, P. Van Dam, L. Pouillon, M. Parizel, K. A. Schats, M. Kockx, W. A.A. Tjalma, P. Vermeulen, S. Van Laere, F. Bertucci, C. Colpaert, L. Dirix

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54 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and rapidly progressive form of invasive breast cancer. The aim of this study was to explore the clinical evolution, stromal tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (sTIL) infiltration and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression in a large IBC cohort. Patients and methods: Data were collected prospectively from patients with IBC as part of an international collaborative effort since 1996. In total, 143 patients with IBC starting treatment between June 1996 and December 2016 were included. Clinicopathological variables were collected, and sTIL were scored by two pathologists on standard H&E stained sections. PD-L1 expression was assessed using a validated PD-L1 (SP142) assay. A validation cohort of 64 patients with IBC was used to test our findings. Results: Survival outcomes of IBC remained poor with a 5-year overall survival (OS) of 45.6%. OS was significantly better in patients with primary non-metastatic disease who received taxane-containing (neo)adjuvant therapy (P = 0.01), had a hormone receptor-positive tumour (P = 0.001) and had lower cN stage at diagnosis (P = 0.001). PD-L1 positivity on immune cells (42.9%) was higher in IBC than in non-IBC in both our patient samples and the validation cohort. Furthermore, PD-L1 expression predicted pCR (P = 0.002) and correlated with sTIL infiltration (P < 0.001). sTIL infiltration of more than 10% of the stroma was a significant predictor of improved OS (HR 0.47, 95% CI 0.27-0.81, P = 0.006) in a multivariate model. Conclusions: IBC is characterised by poor survival and high PD-L1 immunoreactivity on sTIL. This suggests a role for PD1/PD-L1 inhibitors in the treatment of IBC. Furthermore, we showed that PD-L1 expression predicts response to neo-adjuvant therapy and that sTIL have prognostic significance in IBC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


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