The Immunohistochemical Expression of Programmed Death Ligand 1 (PD-L1) Is Affected by Sample Overfixation

A. Barberà, R. Marginet Flinch, M. Martin, J.L. Mate, A. Oriol, F. Martínez-Soler, T. Santalucia, P.L. Fernández

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Humanized antibodies targeting programmed death receptor 1 (PD-1) or its ligand (PD-L1) have been approved for the treatment of different cancers. Some of these antibodies show a correlation between the tissue expression of PD-L1 and response. Evaluation of PD-L1 expression presents multiple challenges, but some preanalytical issues such as tissue fixation have been scarcely evaluated. With the hypothesis that immunohistochemical staining of PD-L1 may be impacted by the time of specimen fixation, we evaluated differences in its expression in tonsil samples exposed to predefined fixation times. Random nontumoral tonsillectomy specimens were blindly evaluated in tissue microarray slides after staining with SP142 and SP263 antibodies. With fixation times ranging from 12 to 72 hours, between 2.8% and 6.1% of the samples were considered to be suboptimally stained, with no differences between the 2 antibodies within these fixation times. A significantly higher proportion of samples exposed to a fixation time of 96 hours presented suboptimal immunostaining (15.6%, P<0.0001). In addition, suboptimally stained spots were 20.8% using SP142 and 10.4% using SP263 after 96 hours of fixation (P=0.046). In conclusion, the quality of staining for PD-L1 in tonsil samples decreased with overfixation of the specimen at times >72 hours. Samples exposed to formaldehyde for longer periods presented suboptimal results for both clones, but the SP142 antibody presented a significantly lower tolerance to formalin overexposure than SP263. These results indicate the relevance of a controlled preanalytical processing of samples and particularly the length of fixation of tumor specimens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-81
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Immunohistochemistry and Molecular Morphology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • PD-L1 immunochemistry
  • fixation times
  • preanalytical processes


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