With the increasing oncological potential of immunotherapy, several immune checkpoint modulators are being investigated. The value of immune markers, including programmed cell death ligand-1, programmed cell death-1 (PD-1), inducible co-stimulator (ICOS), lymphocyte activation gene-3, T-cell immunoglobulin, and mucin-dominant containing-3 (TIM-3), is not well known. Using tissue microarrays of 396 patients who underwent surgery for oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), infiltrated T-cell subsets (CD3, CD8, and Foxp3) and checkpoint protein expression were scored. With a median follow-up of 24.8 months, CD3+ TIL subsets (50.0%) had longer median recurrence-free survival (RFS, 55.0 vs 21.4 months) and overall survival (OS, 77.7 vs 35.8 months). Patients with high ICOS expression (46.5%) had longer median RFS (53.9 vs 25.3 months) and OS (88.8 vs 36.9 months). For PD-1, RFS (hazard ratio [HR] 0.67) and OS (HR 0.66) were significantly longer in the high-expression group (45.2%). In the multivariate analysis, high TIM-3 expression (50.8%) had a significant relationship with shorter RFS (HR = 1.52) and OS (HR = 1.60). High CD3+ TIL and T-cell ICOS expression were associated with favourable prognosis, whereas high TIM-3 expression suggested a poor prognosis. Our findings may confer new insights to improve ESCC outcomes beyond the application of PD-1 blockade.
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