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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
  1. Tony El Jabbour1,
  2. Jeffrey S Ross1,2,
  3. Christine E Sheehan1,
  4. Kajsa E Affolter3,
  5. Katherine B Geiersbach3,4,
  6. Ann Boguniewicz1,
  7. Sanaz Ainechi1,
  8. Mary P Bronner3,
  9. David M Jones1,
  10. Hwajeong Lee1
  1. 1 Anatomic Pathology, Albany Medical College, Albany, NY, USA
  2. 2 Foundation Medicine, Cambridge, MA, USA
  3. 3 Department of Pathology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
  4. 4 Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA
  1. Correspondence to Hwajeong Lee, Albany Medical College, 47 New Scotland Ave., MC81, Albany, NY 12208, USA; LeeH5{at}


Aims 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).

Methods 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.

Results 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.

Conclusions 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.

  • SP142
  • colorectal cancer
  • PD-L1
  • immunotherapy
  • comprehensive genomic profiling
  • immune checkpoint inhibitor

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  • Handling editor Runjan Chetty.

  • Contributors TE, CES and HL: Design of the study, literature review and manuscript preparation, acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data. JSR: Conception of the study, acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data, revised the work critically. KEA, KBG, AB, SA, MPB and DMJ: Acquisition and interpretation of data, revised the work critically.

  • Competing interests JSR has employment/equity interest in Foundation Medicine Inc. CES provides consulting services to Foundation Medicine Inc. TE, KEA, KB, AB, SA, MPB, DMJ and HL have no competing interests to declare.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data available.

  • Correction notice This paper has been amended since it was published Online First. Owing to a scripting error, some of the publisher names in the references were replaced with ’BMJ Publishing Group'. This only affected the full text version, not the PDF. We have since corrected these errors and the correct publishers have been inserted into the references.