Basal cell carcinoma: PD-L1/PD-1 checkpoint expression and tumor regression after PD-1 blockade

Evan J. Lipson, Mohammed T. Lilo, Aleksandra Ogurtsova, Jessica Esandrio, Haiying Xu, Patricia Brothers, Megan Schollenberger, William H. Sharfman, Janis M. Taube

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Monoclonal antibodies that block immune regulatory proteins such as programmed death-1 (PD-1) have demonstrated remarkable efficacy in controlling the growth of multiple tumor types. Unresectable or metastatic basal cell carcinoma, however, has largely gone untested. Because PD-Ligand-1 (PD-L1) expression in other tumor types has been associated with response to anti-PD-1, we investigated the expression of PD-L1 and its association with PD-1 expression in the basal cell carcinoma tumor microenvironment. Among 40 basal cell carcinoma specimens, 9/40 (22%) demonstrated PD-L1 expression on tumor cells, and 33/40 (82%) demonstrated PD-L1 expression on tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and associated macrophages. PD-L1 was observed in close geographic association to PD-1+ tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. Additionally, we present, here, the first report of an objective anti-tumor response to pembrolizumab (anti-PD-1) in a patient with metastatic PD-L1 (+) basal cell carcinoma, whose disease had previously progressed through hedgehog pathway-directed therapy. The patient remains in a partial response 14 months after initiation of therapy. Taken together, our findings provide a rationale for testing anti-PD-1 therapy in patients with advanced basal cell carcinoma, either as initial treatment or after acquired resistance to hedgehog pathway inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23
JournalJournal for immunotherapy of cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 21 2017


  • Anti-PD-1
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Hedgehog
  • PD-L1
  • Pembrolizumab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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