BACKGROUND: The immune checkpoint proteins, including the B7/CD28 receptor superfamily, have become increasingly important targets for pharmacologic blockade. Several classes of new agents have impressive clinical activity, and their eventual approval for treatment of lung cancer seems likely.
METHODS: This article discusses the current development of these agents, including the CTLA-4, PD-1, and PD-L1 inhibitory pathways, killer immunoglobulin receptor (KIR ) inhibition, and other checkpoint proteins.
RESULTS: Ipilimumab in combination with chemotherapy has exhibited encouraging results in small-cell and non-small-cell lung cancer alike. Reported phase I trials of the monoclonal antibodies nivolumab, MK-3475, MEDI4736, and MPDL3280A are demonstrating durable overall radiological response rates in the 20% to 25% range in lung cancer. This exceptional activity includes squamous lung cancers, a population historically bereft of significant therapeutic advances. Retrospective examination of tumor PD-L1 expression suggests that PD-L1 may eventually be evaluable as a predictive biomarker. Dual checkpoint blockade strategies, such as those combining anti-CTLA-4, anti-LAG-3, or anti-KIR, are being tested to increase the proportion and durability of tumor responses. Examination of acquired immune resistance and post-immunotherapy relapse strategies are underway.
CONCLUSIONS: These emerging antibodies hold great potential for the systemic control of epithelial cancers such as lung cancer.