Immunotherapy in Sarcoma: Where Do Things Stand?

Surg Oncol Clin N Am. 2022 Jul;31(3):381-397. doi: 10.1016/j.soc.2022.03.004.


Early experiences with modern immunotherapy have been disappointing in trials of unselected sarcoma subtypes. However, remarkable efficacy has been observed with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in a subset of patients, with the most promising outcomes to date in alveolar soft part sarcoma, cutaneous angiosarcoma, undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS), and dedifferentiated liposarcoma (dLPS). Adoptive cellular therapies targeting cancer testis antigens have shown promising activity, but only synovial sarcoma (SS) and myxoid/round cell liposarcomas reliably express these targets. The majority of sarcomas are immunologically "cold" with sparse immune infiltration, which may explain the poor response to immunotherapy. Current immunotherapy trials for sarcomas explore combination therapies with checkpoint inhibitors to overcome immune evasion and novel targets in adoptive cellular therapies. The role of tertiary lymphoid structures, PD-L1 expression, tumor mutational burden, microsatellite instability, and tumor lymphocytes as biomarkers for response are areas of active investigation. In this review, we highlight prior and ongoing clinical efforts to improve outcomes with immunotherapy and discuss the current state of understanding for biomarkers to select patients most likely to benefit from this approach.

Keywords: Adoptive cellular therapy; Immune checkpoint inhibitors; Immunotherapy; Soft tissue sarcoma; Tertiary lymphoid structure; Tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Liposarcoma* / pathology
  • Male
  • Sarcoma* / pathology
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor