Highly aneuploid non-small cell lung cancer shows enhanced responsiveness to concurrent radiation and immune checkpoint blockade

Nat Cancer. 2022 Dec;3(12):1498-1512. doi: 10.1038/s43018-022-00467-x. Epub 2022 Nov 28.


Over 500 clinical trials are investigating combination radiotherapy and immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) as cancer treatments; however, the majority of trials have found no positive interaction. Here we perform a comprehensive molecular analysis of a randomized phase I clinical trial of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with concurrent or sequential ablative radiotherapy and ICB. We show that concurrent treatment is superior to sequential treatment in augmenting local and distant tumor responses and in improving overall survival in a subset of patients with immunologically cold, highly aneuploid tumors, but not in those with less aneuploid tumors. In addition, radiotherapy alone decreases intratumoral cytotoxic T cell and adaptive immune signatures, whereas radiotherapy and ICB upregulates key immune pathways. Our findings challenge the prevailing paradigm that local ablative radiotherapy beneficially stimulates the immune response. We propose the use of tumor aneuploidy as a biomarker and therapeutic target in personalizing treatment approaches for patients with NSCLC treated with radiotherapy and ICB.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung* / therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Humans
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Lung Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Lung Neoplasms* / therapy


  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Biomarkers