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head & neck

PD-L1 quality assurance network

The 'Head & Neck PD-L1 Quality Assurance Network' is a new initiative to support, educate, disperse knowledge and ensure high standards of performance in PD-L1 scoring for Head and Neck cancer.



NHS England has published interim guidance to give eligible patients in England access to Pembrolizumab immunotherapy for first-line treatment of metastatic or unresectable recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) in adults with a Combined positive score (CPS) > 1 [1].

Pembrolizumab has already been granted a European licence for this indication in 2019 and is in the process of undergoing National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) assessment to obtain full NICE guidance approval [2].

One of the eligibility criteria, as set out by the regulatory authorities and Cancer Drug Fund (CDF) for use of pembrolizumab in the treatment of HNSCC, is demonstration of expression of PD-L1 by a Combined Positive Score (CPS) > 1 [3].

Determination of a PD-L1 CPS can be performed by Head and Neck & Oral Histopathologists, only after appropriate training.



The Head & Neck PD-L1 Quality Assurance Network was created with the following aims:

  • Point of contact to help identify centres for Head and Neck PD-L1 testing


  • Body of PD-L1 train-the-trainers to offer virtual PD-L1 training


  • Establishment of a quality assurance scheme for PD-L1 CPS scoring

  • Continual professional development (CPD) opportunities through online discussion and feedback sessions


For further information, to participate in our next virtual quality assurance circulation, or to arrange training, please contact:


Dr Lisette Collins (Consultant Head & Neck Pathologist) 


All members of the H&N PD-L1 QAN (below) can be approached for queries and guidance:

Dr Ian Proctor -

UCLH Cellular pathology, 

60 Whitfield Street
London W1T 4EU

Dr Hannah Cottom

The Royal London

Floor 2, Pathology and Pharmacy Building
80 Newark Street, London, E1 2ES

Dr Ali Khurram

Unit of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology

School of Clinical Dentistry

19 Claremont Crescent, Sheffield S10 2TA

Dr Lisette Collins

Head and Neck / Oral Pathology 

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust / Viapath LLC

Floor 4 Guy's Tower, Guy's Hospital, London SE1 9RT

Useful references:

  1. Interim treatment change options for the COVID-19 pandemic, endorsed by NHS England (27 April 2020).


  1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Pembrolizumab for untreated metastatic or unresectable recurrent squamous cell head and neck cancer.

  2. NHS England. National cancer drugs fund list. v1.165 May 2020.

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