To determine if there is a biologic rationale for using checkpoint inhibitor drugs targeting programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) and PD-L2 in the treatment of adenoid cystic carcinoma of the orbit.
Twenty-three cases of adenoid cystic carcinoma involving the orbit (13 primary lacrimal gland, 5 secondarily extending into the orbit, and 5 unspecified) were examined histopathologically. Immunohistochemistry for PD-L1, PD-L2, and CD8 was performed. Charts were reviewed for clinical correlations.
Expression of PD-L1 and of PD-L2 was overall low in adenoid cystic carcinoma (mean expression 1.4 ± 0.9 of 5 for PD-L1, mean 0.83 ± 1.1 of 5 for PD-L2), and tumor-infiltrating CD8-positive T-lymphocytes were sparse (mean 1.1 ± 0.51 of 3). Only 13 of the 23 (57%) cases expressed PD-L1 as a combined positive score ≥1 of cells. No associations were found between expression levels of these markers and patient sex, tumor site of origin, Tumor, Node, Metastasis stage, or patient outcome. A significant association was observed between stromal PD-L1 expression and tumor histopathologic subtype (p = 0.05), and between tumor PD-L1 expression and prior exposure to radiation (p = 0.03).
Checkpoint inhibitor drugs may have limited impact in the treatment and clinical course of orbital adenoid cystic carcinoma based on the low frequency of CD8 infiltrate and low expression of PD-L1 and PD-L2. Pretreatment with radiation, however, may improve tumor response to checkpoint inhibitor drugs.