Programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1, also known as B7 homolog 1 or CD274) is a major obstacle to antitumor immunity because it tolerizes/anergizes tumor-reactive T cells by binding to its receptor programmed death-1 (CD279), renders tumor cells resistant to CD8(+) T cell- and FasL-mediated lysis, and tolerizes T cells by reverse signaling through T cell-expressed CD80. PD-L1 is abundant in the tumor microenvironment, where it is expressed by many malignant cells, as well as by immune cells and vascular endothelial cells. The critical role of PD-L1 in obstructing antitumor immunity has been demonstrated in multiple animal models and in recent clinical trials. This article reviews the mechanisms by which PD-L1 impairs antitumor immunity and discusses established and experimental strategies for maintaining T cell activation in the presence of PD-L1-expressing cells in the tumor microenvironment.
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