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Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors for the Treatment of Unresectable Stage III Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer: Emerging Mechanisms and Perspectives

Authors Inoue H, Okamoto I

Received 2 November 2019

Accepted for publication 20 December 2019

Published 3 January 2020 Volume 2019:10 Pages 161—170


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Sai-Hong Ignatius Ou

Hiroyuki Inoue,1,2 Isamu Okamoto1

1Research Institute for Diseases of the Chest, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan; 2Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Kyushu University Hospital, Fukuoka, Japan

Correspondence: Isamu Okamoto
Research Institute for Diseases of the Chest, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, 3-1-1 Maidashi, Higashi-Ku, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan
Tel +81-92-642-5378
Fax +81-92-642-5390

Abstract: There has been no improvement in outcome for patients with unresectable locally advanced (stage III) non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) for more than 10 years. The standard treatment for these patients is definitive concurrent chemotherapy and radiation (CCRT). Although the goal of treatment in this setting is to achieve a cure, most patients progress and their prognosis is poor, with a 5-year survival rate of 15–30%. There is thus an urgent need for the development of novel anticancer treatments in this patient population. Recent advances in cancer immunotherapy have led to a marked improvement in clinical outcome for advanced NSCLC. Such immunotherapy mainly consists of the administration of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) such as antibodies to cytotoxic T lymphocyte–associated protein–4 (CTLA-4) or to either programmed cell death–1 (PD-1) or its ligand PD-L1. Durvalumab (MEDI4736) is a high-affinity human immunoglobulin G1 monoclonal antibody that blocks the binding of PD-L1 on tumor cells or antigen-presenting cells to PD-1 on T cells. The PACIFIC study recently evaluated consolidation immunotherapy with durvalumab versus placebo administered after concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CCRT) in patients with unresectable stage III NSCLC. It revealed a significant improvement in both progression-free and overall survival with durvalumab, and this improvement was associated with a favorable safety profile. This achievement has made durvalumab a standard of care for consolidation after CCRT in patients with unresectable stage III NSCLC, and it has now been approved in this setting by regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and the United Arab Emirates. In this review, we briefly summarize the results of the PACIFIC trial, including those of post hoc analysis, and we address possible molecular mechanisms, perspectives, and remaining questions related to combined treatment with CCRT and ICIs in this patient population.

Keywords: durvalumab, PD-L1, immunogenic cell death, lung cancer

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