The Role of Checkpoint Inhibition in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Ochsner J. 2017 Winter;17(4):379-387.


Background: The development of immune checkpoint inhibitors has revolutionized the treatment of cancer. Their use in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains in its infancy, but rapid progress has been made in treating metastatic NSCLC.

Methods: This article outlines the role of immune checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of malignancy and reviews clinical trials of novel immunotherapies in the setting of metastatic NSCLC.

Results: Traditional chemotherapy with a platinum-based doublet has long been the backbone in the treatment of metastatic NSCLC. While the treatment of NSCLC can be targeted to specific mutations such as epidermal growth factor receptor, these subgroups are rare. The development of immunotherapy has expanded the treatment options for patients who have failed initial chemotherapy. Additionally, new studies have shown positive results for the use of immunotherapy in the first-line setting under certain conditions, allowing pembrolizumab to become the first immunotherapy to be approved in the first-line setting.

Conclusion: Treatment of NSCLC is constantly changing, and new immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown promising results. Clinical trials are examining their use in the adjuvant setting and in combination with other therapies, and these combination therapies have the potential to show even greater benefits and broader applications than the individual drugs themselves.

Keywords: Atezolizumab; carcinoma–non-small-cell lung; immunotherapy; lung neoplasms; nivolumab; pembrolizumab.

Publication types

  • Review