Characterization of PD-L1 Immunohistochemical Expression in Cell Blocks With Different Specimen Fixation and Processing Methods

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Interpretative criteria for programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) immunohistochemistry (IHC) have been largely based on data from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues, despite the fact that cytologic specimens, especially cell blocks, are often the only or most readily available tissue for testing. Unlike biopsy specimens, however, cytology sample processing methods can vary markedly. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of several common preanalytic variables on PD-L1 IHC. Two cell lines with strong expression of PD-L1 (H441) and no expression (MCF7) were cultured in vitro. Harvested cells were collected in PreservCyt, CytoLyt, cell culture media (RPMI), saline, and formalin. Cell blocks were prepared by the plasma-thromboplastin method or Cellient automated system and stained with the FDA-approved 28-8 PD-L1 antibody per protocol. PD-L1 expression was scored manually by 3 pathologists for stain intensity and localization and compared across preparation methods. Several IHC staining patterns were observed: complete membranous, partial membranous, globular, and cytoplasmic, with some overlap. Cellient blocks had the best interobserver agreement and cytomorphology, highest proportion of strong complete membranous staining (82%), and least amount of cytoplasmic (11%) and globular staining (8%). RPMI, saline, and formalin samples demonstrated increased amounts of cytoplasmic and globular staining relative to Cellient, while CytoLyt exhibited the poorest performance overall. Interpretation of PD-L1 IHC on cell blocks is feasible for most processing methods examined, but may require recognition of increased cytoplasmic and globular staining in some sample types. Cellient cell blocks demonstrated superior performance compared with other methods.

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