5 years ago

Prognostic value of programmed cell death ligand 1 expression in patients with head and neck cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Ji Li, Ping Wang, Youliang Xu

by Ji Li, Ping Wang, Youliang Xu


Programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression was reported to be correlated with poor prognosis in various cancers. However, the relationship between PD-L1 expression and the survival of patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) remains inconclusive. In the present study, we aimed to clarify the prognostic value of PD-L1 in HNC patients using meta-analysis techniques.


A comprehensive database searching was conducted in the PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science and Cochrane Library from inception to August 2016. Studies meeting the inclusion criteria were included. The methodological quality of included studies was assessed by the Newcastle-Ottawa quality assessment scale. Hazard ratios (HRs) with their corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were pooled by STATA 11.0 for the outcome of overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS).


A total of 17 studies with 2,869 HNC patients were included in the meta-analysis. The results of meta-analysis showed that there was no significant correlation between PD-L1 expression and OS (HR, 1.23; 95% CI, 0.99–1.53; P = 0.065) or DFS (HR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.00–2.03; P = 0.052) of HNC patients. However, the subgroup analysis suggested that positive expression of PD-L1 was associated with poor OS (HR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.12, 1.70; P = 0.003) and DFS (HR, 1.99; 95% CI, 1.59, 2.48; P = 0.001) in HNC patients from Asian countries/regions. The subgroup analysis also showed that the correlations between PD-L1 and prognosis are variant among different subtypes of HNC. When performing sensitive analyses, we found that the results of meta-analyses were not robust.


The meta-analysis indicated that positive expression of PD-L1 could serve as a good predictor for poor prognosis of Asian patients with HNC. However, the findings still need to be confirmed by large-scale, prospective studies.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179536

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