PD-L1 Is Preferentially Expressed in PIT-1 Positive Pituitary Neuroendocrine Tumours

Endocr Pathol. 2021 Sep;32(3):408-414. doi: 10.1007/s12022-021-09673-2. Epub 2021 Mar 11.


Pituitary neuroendocrine tumours (PitNETs) cause lifelong morbidity, some requiring extensive surgical intervention, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy. A small percentage still cause debilitating disease, resistant to standard treatments, and may benefit from novel therapies. We assessed PD-L1 expression in a large cohort of PitNETs to investigate whether immunotherapy could represent a rational therapeutic choice. Unselected PitNETs undergoing surgical resection were reclassified according to the WHO 2017 system and underwent PD-L1 immunohistochemistry (clone SP263) in tissue microarray format. Membranous expression was scored as 0 (no expression), 1+ (< 50% expression) and 2+ (> 50% expression). A total of 265 PitNETs underwent PD-L1 immunohistochemistry. Prominent non-specific cytoplasmic staining was noted making assessment of true membrane expression difficult. Allowing for this, 40 of 264 (15%) PitNETs demonstrated strong staining (> 50% of neoplastic cells positive). These included 5/10 (50%) somatotrophs, 7/17 (41%) lactotrophs, 2/5 (40%) mammosomatotrophs, 4/8 (50%) mixed somatotroph-lactotrophs, 3/5 (60%) PIT-1 positive plurihormonal tumours with TSH expression, 10/28 (36%) of PIT-1 positive plurihormonal tumours, and 4/10 (40%) of PIT-1 positive tumours with no hormonal expression. Only 2/32 (6%) transcription factor triple negative, hormone negative tumours, 5/113 (4%) of gonadotrophs, and 0/6 thyrotrophs or 0/30 corticotrophs showed significant staining. We conclude that PD-L1 expression is common in somatotrophs, lactotrophs, and PIT-1 positive plurihormonal PitNETs but rare in transcription factor negative, hormone negative PitNETs, gonadotrophs, and corticotrophs. If the therapeutic role of immunotherapy is to be explored in PitNETs, it may be that it is of most benefit in the PD-L1 high subgroup.

Keywords: Immunotherapy; PD-L1; PitNET; Pituitary adenoma; Pituitary neuroendocrine tumour; Transcription factors.

MeSH terms

  • B7-H1 Antigen / analysis*
  • B7-H1 Antigen / biosynthesis*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / metabolism*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factor Pit-1 / metabolism


  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CD274 protein, human
  • Transcription Factor Pit-1