Although there are immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) available for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the utility of PD-L1 detection by immunohistochemistry (IHC) as a predictive biomarker in clear cell RCC (ccRCC) remains controversial. Nevertheless, alternative methods for PD-L1 detection, such as RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq), may be clinically useful in ccRCC; therefore, we sought to determine the ability of RNA-Seq to accurately and sensitively detect PD-L1 expression across different ccRCC clinical samples in comparison with IHC.
Patients with ccRCC (n=127) who received treatment from Washington University in St. Louis between 2018 and 2020 were identified. Tumors from these patients were analyzed using RNA-Seq and IHC.
PD-L1 detection by RNA-Seq strongly correlated with IHC (P < .001), which was further validated using two independent datasets. Furthermore, RNA-Seq analysis identified an immune-enriched (higher PD-L1 positivity) and an immune-desert (lower PD-L1 positivity) microenvironment of ccRCC, which also correlated with IHC (P < .00001).
The results demonstrate the ability of RNA-Seq to detect PD-L1 in various ccRCC clinical samples compared to IHC. Ultimately, these findings suggest that PD-L1 detection by RNA-Seq can be further developed to determine the clinical utility of this methodology in ccRCC.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.