Neoadjuvant Nivolumab Therapy for Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A Single-Arm, Phase II Study

Cancer Res Treat. 2024 Apr;56(2):567-579. doi: 10.4143/crt.2023.897. Epub 2023 Oct 16.


Purpose: Programmed death-1/programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) inhibitors have shown efficacy in metastatic esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) therapy. However, data is still limited regarding neoadjuvant immunotherapy for operable ESCC.

Materials and methods: Patients with clinical stage T2 or T3 and N0 ESCC received three cycles of nivolumab therapy every two weeks before surgical resection. The primary endpoint is major pathologic responses (MPR) rate (≤ 10% of residual viable tumor [RVT]).

Results: Total 20 patients completed the planned nivolumab therapy. Among them, 17 patients underwent surgery as protocol, showing MPR in two patients (MPR rate, 11.8%), including one pathologic complete response, on conventional pathologic response evaluation. Pathologic response was re-evaluated using the immune-related pathologic response criteria based on immune-related RVT (irRVT). Three patients were classified as immunologic major pathologic response (iMPR; ≤ 10% irRVT, iMPR rate: 17.6%), five as pathologic partial response (> 10% and < 90% irRVT), and nine as pathologic nonresponse (≥ 90% irRVT). The combined positive score (CPS) for PD-L1 in the baseline samples was predictable for iMPR, with the probability as 37.5% in CPS ≥ 10 (3/8) and 0% in CPS < 10 (0/9).

Conclusion: Although the efficacy of neoadjuvant nivolumab therapy was modest in unselected ESCC patients, further researches on neoadjuvant immunotherapy are necessary in patients with PD-L1 expressed ESCC.

Keywords: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma; Neoadjuvant; Nivolumab.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II

MeSH terms

  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Esophageal Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Neoplasm, Residual
  • Nivolumab / therapeutic use


  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Nivolumab