Immunotherapy in Gynecologic Cancers: Are We There Yet?

Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2017 Aug 24;18(10):59. doi: 10.1007/s11864-017-0504-y.


Immune-targeted therapies have demonstrated durable responses in many tumor types with limited treatment options and poor overall prognosis. This has led to enthusiasm for expanding such therapies to other tumor types including gynecologic malignancies. The use of immunotherapy in gynecologic malignancies is in the early stages and is an active area of ongoing clinical research. Both cancer vaccines and immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy continue to be extensively studied in gynecologic malignancies. Immune checkpoint inhibitors, in particular, hold promising potential in specific subsets of endometrial cancer that express microsatellite instability. The key to successful treatment with immunotherapy involves identification of the subgroup of patients that will derive benefit. The number of ongoing trials in cervical, ovarian, and endometrial cancer will help to recognize these patients and make treatment more directed. Additionally, a number of studies are combining immunotherapy with standard treatment options and will help to determine combinations that will enhance responses to standard therapy. Overall, there is much enthusiasm for immunotherapy approaches in gynecologic malignancies. However, the emerging data shows that with the exception of microsatellite unstable tumors, the use of single-agent immune checkpoint inhibitors is associated with response rates of 10-15%. More effective and likely combinatorial approaches are needed and will be informed by the findings of ongoing trials.

Keywords: Cervical cancer; Checkpoint inhibitor; Endometrial cancer; Immunotherapy; Ovarian cancer; PD-L1; PD1.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cancer Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy / adverse effects
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / diagnosis
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / immunology
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation / drug effects
  • Immunotherapy* / adverse effects
  • Immunotherapy* / methods
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / adverse effects
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cancer Vaccines