Undifferentiated Pancreatic Carcinomas Display Enrichment for Frequency and Extent of PD-L1 Expression by Tumor Cells

Heidi D. Lehrke, Rondell Graham, Robert R Mc Williams, Dora M. Lam-Himlin, Thomas Christopher Smyrk, Sarah Jenkins, Haidong M Dong, Lizhi Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Objectives: Programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) has been described, but unselected PDAs have shown limited clinical responsiveness to anti-programmed death 1 (PD-1)/PD-L1 therapy.

Methods: We studied 24 cases of undifferentiated pancreatic carcinoma (UPC) using immunohistochemistry for PD-L1 (E1L3N clone), CD3, CD20, CD68, and DNA mismatch repair proteins in this study. Slides were scored for extent of PD-L1 expression on tumor cells and tumor-infiltrating immune cells.

Results: PD-L1 expression was more frequent in UPCs than in PDAs (63% vs 15%, P < .01). The extent of PD-L1 expression was greater in UPCs, with 13 (87%) of 15 cases containing 10% or more positive tumor cells compared with three of seven PDAs (P = .05). Both tumor groups showed similar numbers of tumor-infiltrating T cells, B cells, and macrophages.

Conclusions: UPC is enriched for PD-L1 expression in frequency and extent, relative to conventional PDA. Anti-PD-1/PD-L1 agents may represent a valuable therapeutic approach for this subset of highly aggressive pancreatic carcinoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-449
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2 2017



  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
  • PD-L1
  • Undifferentiated pancreatic carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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