Immune checkpoint inhibitors in advanced renal cell carcinoma: experience to date and future directions

In recent years, there has been dramatic expansion of the treatment armamentarium for patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (aRCC), including drugs targeting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathways. Despite these advances, patient outcomes remain suboptimal, underscoring the need for therapeutic interventions with novel mechanisms of action. The advent of immunotherapy with checkpoint inhibitors has led to significant changes in the treatment landscape for several solid malignancies. Specifically, drugs targeting the programmed death 1 (PD-1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated antigen (CTLA-4) pathways have demonstrated considerable clinical efficacy and gained regulatory approval as single-agent or combination therapy for the treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, aRCC, advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, urothelial cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma. In aRCC, the PD-1 inhibitor nivolumab was approved in both the United States and Europe for the treatment of patients who have received prior therapy, based on improved overall survival compared with the mTOR inhibitor everolimus. Other checkpoint inhibitors, including the CTLA-4 inhibitor ipilimumab in combination with several agents, and the PD-L1 inhibitor atezolizumab, are in various stages of clinical development in patients with aRCC. In this review, current evidence related to the clinical use of checkpoint inhibitors for the treatment of patients with aRCC is discussed, including information on the frequency and management of unconventional responses and the management of immune-related adverse events. In addition, perspectives on the future use of checkpoint inhibitors are discussed, including the potential value of treatment beyond progression, the potential use in earlier lines of care or in combination with other agents, and the identification of biomarkers to guide patient selection and enable individualization of therapy.

Annals of oncology : official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology. 2017 Apr 05 [Epub ahead of print]

M B Atkins, J I Clark, D I Quinn

Georgetown-Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington DC, USA., Loyola University-Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, IL, USA., USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

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