Similar to melanoma, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) has been historically considered as an immunogenic tumor, with interleukin 2 (IL-2) and interferon alpha (IFN-α) being the first approved treatments in the 1990s. However, these therapies were effective in only 10-20% of cases and were not well tolerated. Recently, new insights on the interaction between the immune system and tumor have identified the programmed death-1/programmed death-ligand-1 (PD-1/PD-L1) pathway to be a key player in evading host immune responses. The strategy of immune checkpoint blockade is to reduce inhibitory signaling and restore the patient's natural tumor-specific T-cell-mediated immune responses. Nivolumab is the first PD-1 inhibitor to have gained approval for the treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma, squamous and nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), Hodgkin disease and recently RCC. In this review, we discuss results from studies of nivolumab in RCC, clinical experience with this agent, and its future development.
Keywords: immune checkpoint inhibitor; immunotherapy; nivolumab; programmed death-1; renal cell carcinoma.