Molecular Pathways and Mechanisms of LAG3 in Cancer Therapy

Clin Cancer Res. 2022 Dec 1;28(23):5030-5039. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-2390.


Immunotherapy targeting coinhibitory receptors has been highly successful in treating a wide variety of malignancies; however, only a subset of patients exhibits durable responses. The first FDA-approved immunotherapeutics targeting coinhibitory receptors PD1 and CTLA4, alone or in combination, significantly improved survival but were also accompanied by substantial toxicity in combination. The third FDA-approved immune checkpoint inhibitor targets LAG3, a coinhibitory receptor expressed on activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, especially in settings of long-term antigenic stimulation, such as chronic viral infection or cancer. Mechanistically, LAG3 expression limits both the expansion of activated T cells and the size of the memory pool, suggesting that LAG3 may be a promising target for immunotherapy. Importantly, the mechanism(s) by which LAG3 contributes to CD8+ T-cell exhaustion may be distinct from those governed by PD1, indicating that the combination of anti-LAG3 and anti-PD1 may synergistically enhance antitumor immunity. Clinical studies evaluating the role of anti-LAG3 in combination with anti-PD1 are underway, and recent phase III trial results in metastatic melanoma demonstrate both the efficacy and safety of this combination. Further ongoing clinical trials are evaluating this combination across multiple tumor types and the adjuvant setting, with accompanying translational and biomarker-focused studies designed to elucidate the molecular pathways that lead to improved antitumor T-cell responses following dual blockade of PD1 and LAG3. Overall, LAG3 plays an important role in limiting T-cell activation and has now become part of the repertoire of combinatorial immunotherapeutics available for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Melanoma* / drug therapy
  • Melanoma* / genetics
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor