PD-L1 protein expression in tumour cells and immune cells in mismatch repair protein-deficient and -proficient colorectal cancer: the foundation study using the SP142 antibody and whole section immunohistochemistry

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Routine application of PD-L1 immunohistochemistry (IHC) in colorectal cancer (CRC) is limited due to lack of standardized scoring criteria, antibody clones, and intratumoral staining heterogeneity. We assessed PD-L1 protein expression on full face CRC tissue sections and applied two algorithms based on the published clinical trials that support the recent FDA approval for immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICPI) therapy in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).


PD-L1/CD274 IHC (Roche/Ventana, clone SP142) was performed on representative tumour blocks from 52 mismatch repair-deficient (MMR-D) and 52 MMR-proficient (MMR-P) CRCs. Membranous PD-L1 expression was scored for the tumour cell (TC) and tumour-infiltrating immune cell (IC) components. PD-L1 positivity status was determined based on the published NSCLC clinical trials that utilized the Ventana SP142 assay. Hybrid capture-based comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) was performed on a separate set of 2268 clinically advanced CRCs and the frequency of PD-L1/PD-L2 amplification was determined.


PD-L1 expression in the TC and IC correlated with MMR-D (p=0.013, p<0.0001), T stage (p=0.036, p=0.0036) and clinical stage (p=0.022, p=0.0037). PD-L1 positivity status correlated with MMR-D by two algorithms. Five of 2268 (<1%) advansced CRCs demonstrated amplification of either the PD-L1 or PD-L2 genes by CGP.


PD-L1 expression in TC and IC is associated with advanced stage and MMR-D. PD-L1 positivity status by the published algorithm is associated with MMR-D. PD-L1 amplification is extremely uncommon in CRC. Evaluation of whole tissue section and incorporation of IC staining enhance the sensitivity to screen patients who may benefit from ICPI therapy.

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