Association of Programmed Death 1 Protein Ligand (PD-L1) Expression With Prognosis in Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Glenn J. Hanna, Alec J. Kacew, Anusha R. Tanguturi, Hans J. Grote, Victoria Vergara, Beatrice Brunkhorst, Guilherme Rabinowits, Manisha Thakuria, Nicole R. LeBoeuf, Christian Ihling, James A. DeCaprio, Jochen H. Lorch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare neuroendocrine skin cancer. Prior to the advent of immunotherapy, treatment options were limited. In our study, we evaluate the impact of tumor cell PD-L1 expression and tumor immune microenvironment on survival in MCC patients who were not treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Methods: Clinical data and tissue samples were collected from 78 patients with confirmed MCC treated at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Specimens were analyzed for the distribution of PD-L1 by immunohistochemistry staining (IHC) and standardized analysis. Results were correlated with survival data. Results: In this study, membrane and cytoplasmic MCC tumor cell staining for PD-L1 was detected in 22.4% (15 of 67) of cases and PD-L1 staining of intratumoral microvessels and PD-L1 positive immune cells at the infiltrative margins of the tumor in 92.5% (62 of 67) of cases. In patients untreated with immune checkpoint inhibitors, median overall survival was not different for patients based on PD-L1 expression (PD-L1+ 64 months vs. PD-L1- not reached; HR = 1.26, 95% CI: 0.46–3.45; p = 0.60). Conclusion: PD-L1 expression is frequently detected in MCC tumor cells and tumor microenvironment. PD-L1 expression did not affect prognosis in this cohort that had not received PD-1/L1 blockade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number198
JournalFrontiers in Medicine
StatePublished - Jun 5 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer
  • MCPyV
  • merkel cell carcinoma
  • merkel cell polyomavirus
  • neuroendocrine carcinoma
  • PD-L1
  • prognostic biomarkers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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