Although advanced bladder cancer overall has a poor prognosis, a subset of patients demonstrate durable response to immune checkpoint inhibitors. Evidence shows that the response to checkpoint inhibitors may be associated with type and degree of immune infiltration in the tumor microenvironment. Here, we evaluated immune markers stratified by molecular subtypes and histologic variants. The study utilized a series of urothelial carcinomas (UCs) by tissue microarray, on which histologic variants and molecular subtypes had previously been established. PD1, CD3, CD8 and CD68 expression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry in tumor infiltrating immune cells, while PD-L1 expression in the tumor microenvironment was assessed. Each marker was scored semi-quantitatively (score 0–3). Tumors were clustered by marker scores using agglomerative methods, and associations among markers, histologies, and molecular subtypes were analyzed. PD-L1 expression in the tumor microenvironment significantly correlated with presence of CD3, CD8 and chronic inflammation. Urothelial carcinoma may be classified as either immune high or low based on marker expression. The immune high group is enriched in higher CD3, PD-L1, and genomically-unstable molecular subtype, suggesting it may respond to checkpoint inhibitors. We also identified a degree of intratumoral heterogeneity in immune markers in bladder cancer.
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