Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is a neoplastic disease in which the inflammatory microenvironment plays a pivotal role in the tumorigenesis. Neutrophilia is a typical finding in HL at diagnosis and, in particular, in association with lymphocytopenia, is a negative prognostic factor. As the immune checkpoint Programmed Death (PD)-L1/PD-1 has become an important therapeutic target, we were interested in the expression of PD-L1 in peripheral blood (PB) leukocytes using flow cytometry and RT-PCR in patients with HL and healthy controls. Granulocytes were the major PB cell fraction expressing PD-L1. PD-L1 expression on granulocytes was higher in patients with HL than in controls and correlated with lower T-cell numbers in PB. We analyzed for associations between PD-L1 expression in PB granulocytes at the time of diagnosis with patient characteristics and outcome in 126 patients with HL treated with standard chemotherapy adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine. Increased PD-L1 expression in PB associated with advanced disease, systemic symptoms, positive interim positron emission tomography, and inferior progression-free survival (PFS). PFS at 4 years was 81% (95% C.I., 71–87%) in patients with normal PD-L1 expression and 56% (95% C.I., 35–72%) in patients with higher-than-normal PD-L1 expression (p = 0.002). In conclusion, PD-L1 expression in PB could become a potentially actionable prognostic factor in HL.
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- immune checkpoint