Concordance study of PD-L1 expression in primary and metastatic bladder carcinomas: Comparison of four commonly used antibodies and RNA expression

Maria Tretiakova*, Regan Fulton, Masha Kocherginsky, Thomas Long, Cigdem Ussakli, Tatjana Antic, Allen Gown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Therapy with anti-PD-L1 immune check-point inhibitors is approved for several cancers, including advanced urothelial carcinomas. PD-L1 prevalence estimates vary widely in bladder cancer, and lack of correlation between expression and clinical outcomes and immunotherapy response may be attributed to methodological differences of the immunohistochemical reagents and procedures. We characterized PD-L1 expression in 235 urothelial carcinomas including 79 matched pairs of primary and metastatic cancers using a panel of four PD-L1 immunoassays in comparison with RNAscope assay using PD-L1-specific probe (CD274). The antibody panel included three FDA-approved clones (22C3 for pembrolizumab, 28.8 for nivolumab, SP142 for atezolizumab), and a commonly used clone E1L3N. Manual scoring of tissue microarrays was performed in each of 235 tumors (624 tissue cores) and compared to an automated image analysis. Expression of PD-L1 in tumor cells by ?1 marker was detected in 41/142 (28.9%) primary tumors, 13/77 (16.9%) lymph nodes, and 2/16 (12.5%) distant metastases. In positive cases, high PD-L1 expression (450% cells) was detected in 34.1% primary and 46.7% metastases. Concordant PD-L1 expression status was present in 71/79 (89.9%) cases of matched primary and metastatic urothelial carcinomas. PD-L1 sensitivity ranked from highest to lowest as follows: RNAscope, clone 28.8, 22C3, E1L3N, and SP142. Pairwise concordance correlation coefficients between the four antibodies in 624 tissue cores ranged from 0.76 to 0.9 for tumor cells and from 0.30 to 0.85 for immune cells. RNA and protein expression levels showed moderate to high agreement (0.72-0.87). Intra-tumor expression heterogeneity was low for both protein and RNA assays (interclass correlation coefficients: 0.86-0.94). Manual scores were highly concordant with automated Aperio scores (0.94-0.97). A significant subset of 56/235 (23.8%) urothelial carcinomas stained positive for PD-L1 with high concordance between all four antibodies and RNA ISH assay. Despite some heterogeneity in staining, the overall results are highly concordant suggesting diagnostic equivalence of tested assays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-632
Number of pages10
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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