Immune checkpoint inhibitors: Key trials and an emerging role in breast cancer

Semin Cancer Biol. 2022 Feb;79:44-57. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2020.06.016. Epub 2020 Jul 2.


This review focuses on immune checkpoint inhibitors - immunomodulatory agents that aim to relieve tumour-mediated immune-cell suppression. Immune checkpoint proteins can be expressed on the tumour-cell or immune-cell populations. Immune checkpoint proteins dampen the immune response by inactivating immune cells capable of tumour destruction. Blockade of immune checkpoints has shown impressive results in a range of solid cancers, particularly melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer. The potential benefit of this class of drugs is widespread across most cancer types and an unprecedented number of clinical studies are underway to examine the benefit of these agents. The aims of this review are to: provide an overview of the key early immune checkpoint inhibitor trials involving drugs targeting programmed cell death-1 (PD-1), programmed cell death ligand-1 (PD-L1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4) in multiple disease types; provide an overview of emerging therapies aimed at these targets; and provide a detailed exploration of the status of immune checkpoint inhibitors in breast cancer.

Keywords: Breast cancer; CTLA-4; Clinical studies; PD-1; PD-L1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • B7-H1 Antigen / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • CTLA-4 Antigen / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CD274 protein, human
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • PDCD1 protein, human
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor