Immunohistochemical expression of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) is used as a predictive biomarker for prescription of immunotherapy to non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients. Accurate assessment of PD-L1 expression is therefore crucial. In this study, the extent of interlaboratory variation in PD-L1 positivity in the Netherlands was assessed, using real-world clinical pathology data.
Data on all NSCLC patients in the Netherlands with a mention of PD-L1 testing in their pathology report from July 2017 to December 2018 were extracted from PALGA, the nationwide network and registry of histo- and cytopathology in the Netherlands. PD-L1 positivity rates were determined for each laboratory that performed PD-L1 testing, with separate analyses for histological and cytological material. Two cutoffs (1% and 50%) were used to determine PD-L1 positivity. Differences between laboratories were assessed using funnel plots with 95% confidence limits around the overall mean.
6,354 patients from 30 laboratories were included in the analysis of histology data. At the 1% cutoff, maximum interlaboratory variation was 39.1% (32.7%-71.8%) and ten laboratories (33.3%) differed significantly from the mean. Using the 50% cutoff, four laboratories (13.3%) differed significantly from the mean and maximum variation was 23.1% (17.2%-40.3%). In the analysis of cytology data, 1,868 patients from 23 laboratories were included. Eight laboratories (34.8%) differed significantly from the mean in the analyses of both cutoffs. Maximum variation was 41.2% (32.2%-73.4%) and 29.2% (14.7%-43.9%) using the 1% and 50% cutoffs, respectively.
Considerable interlaboratory variation in PD-L1 positivity was observed. Variation was largest using the 1% cutoff. At the 50% cutoff, analysis of cytology data demonstrated a higher degree of variation than the analysis of histology data.

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