Combination Strategies for Immune-Checkpoint Blockade and Response Prediction by Artificial Intelligence

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Apr 19;21(8):2856. doi: 10.3390/ijms21082856.


The therapeutic concept of unleashing a pre-existing immune response against the tumor by the application of immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) has resulted in long-term survival in advanced cancer patient subgroups. However, the majority of patients do not benefit from single-agent ICI and therefore new combination strategies are eagerly necessitated. In addition to conventional chemotherapy, kinase inhibitors as well as tumor-specific vaccinations are extensively investigated in combination with ICI to augment therapy responses. An unprecedented clinical outcome with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-)T cell therapy has led to the approval for relapsed/refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma and B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia whereas response rates in solid tumors are unsatisfactory. Immune-checkpoints negatively impact CAR-T cell therapy in hematologic and solid malignancies and as a consequence provide a therapeutic target to overcome resistance. Established biomarkers such as programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) and tumor mutational burden (TMB) help to select patients who will benefit most from ICI, however, biomarker negativity does not exclude responses. Investigating alterations in the antigen presenting pathway as well as radiomics have the potential to determine tumor immunogenicity and response to ICI. Within this review we summarize the literature about specific combination partners for ICI and the applicability of artificial intelligence to predict ICI therapy responses.

Keywords: CAR-T cell; HLA; PD-1; PD-L1; T cell exhaustion; kinase inhibitor; radiomics; resistance mechanism; tumor neoantigen; vaccination.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cancer Vaccines / adverse effects
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Immunotherapy / adverse effects
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors