PD-L1 testing and immunotherapy selection – early laboratory experience and its potential role in head and neck cancer management

Andrei Bancu, Richard Cowan, Anshuman Chaturvedi


Anti-programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1) therapy has been relatively recently approved in a defined context by NICE in adults in the management of recurrent and metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). In this context, companion diagnostic programmed cell death ligand-1 (PD-L1) testing, previously established at our center for lung and bladder tumors, was undertaken in a few head and neck cancer cases. The scope of this study was to audit the relevant PD-L1 data and integrate the findings in our current clinical practice, with a view to promote improved routine laboratory biomarkers in HNSCC.  Histopathology reports documenting tumor type, PD-L1 result and type of clone/assay were included in this study. Over a 5-year period, PD-L1 testing was undertaken in 199 cancer cases, including 3 with head and neck squamous carcinoma with low focal positive staining. Immunotherapy treatment in HNSCC demonstrates a discreet but still significant improvement in the overall survival of PD-L1 positive subjects.


PD-L1/PD-1; biomarkers; tumor proportion score; combined positive score; immunotherapy; head and neck squamous cell carcinomas

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22551/2021.30.0801.10179

Copyright (c) 2021 Andrei Bancu, Richard Cowan, Anshuman Chaturvedi

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ISSN: 2360-6975