Supplementary Material for: Development of a PD-L1-Expressing Orthotopic Liver Cancer Model: Implications for Immunotherapy for Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Background: Anti-programmed cell death-1(anti-PD1) treatment has shown promising antitumor efficacy in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This study sought to explore the functional significance of programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) expression in tumor cells in the tumor microenvironment. Methods: The mouse liver cancer cell line BNL-MEA was transfected with PD-L1 plasmids and stable clones expressing PD-L1 were selected. An orthotopic HCC model was generated by implanting the cells into the subcapsular space of BALB/c mice. Cell growth features were measured by proliferation assay, colony formation, flow cytometry (in vitro), ultrasonography, and animal survival (in vivo). The changes in T-cell function were examined by cytokine assay, expression of T-cell related genes, and flow cytometry. The efficacy of anti-PD1 therapy was compared between the parental and PD-L1-expressing tumors. Results: PD-L1 expression did not affect growth characteristics of BNL-MEA cells but downregulated the expression of genes related to T-cell activation in the tumor microenvironment. Co-culture of PD-L1-expressing BNL-MEA cells with CD8+ T cells reduced T-cell proliferation and expression of cytokines IFNγ and TNFα. Tumors with PD-L1 expression showed better response to anti-PD1 therapy and depletion of CD8+ T cells abolished the antitumor effect. The difference in treatment response between parental and PD-L1-expressing tumors disappeared when a combination of anti-PD1 and sorafenib was given. Conclusions: PD-L1 expression in HCC cells may inhibit T-cell function in the liver tumor microenvironment. Anti-PD1 therapy appeared more effective in PD-L1-expressing than nonexpressing tumors, but the difference was diminished by the addition of sorafenib.