The first study demonstrating that human colorectal carcinoma (CRC) is under robust immunosurveillance was published a decade ago. Today, it is clear that CRC patients with Stage III lesions abundantly infiltrated by effector memory T cells have a better prognosis than subjects with Stage I neoplasms exhibiting no or poor immune infiltration. Thus, immunological parameters have a superior prognostic value for CRC patients than TNM staging or the Dukes classification. In spite of the fact that CRC is the first neoplasia found to be under immunological control, most attempts made so far to cure this malignancy with immunotherapy have failed. With the exception of a minority of lesions characterized by microsatellite instability (MSI), CRC seems to be insensitive to the blockade of immunological checkpoints with monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) specific for cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA4), programmed cell death 1 (PDCD1, best known as PD-1) and the PD-1 ligand CD274 (best known as PD-L1). Thus, CRC stands in contrast with an increasing number of malignancies that respond to checkpoint blockers. Efforts should therefore be dedicated to the development of strategies to (re)instate immunosurveillance in patients with MSI- CRC, perhaps based on the identification of novel, locally relevant immunological checkpoints.
Keywords: CTLA4; PD-1; PD-L1; ipilimumab; nivolumab; pembrolizumab.