Emerging immunotherapy targets in lung cancer

Lung Cancer

Chin Med J (Engl). 2020 Sep 17. doi: 10.1097/CM9.0000000000001082. Online ahead of print.


Immunotherapy has become the mainstay for lung cancer treatment, providing sustained therapeutic responses and improved prognosis compared with those obtained with surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and targeted therapy. It has the potential for anti-tumor treatment and killing tumor cells by activating human immunity and has moved the targets of anti-cancer therapy from malignant tumor cells to immune cell subsets. Two kinds of immune checkpoints, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4

(CTLA-4) and programmed death-1 (PD-1)/programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1), are the main targets of current immunotherapy in lung cancer. Despite the successful outcomes achieved by immune checkpoint inhibitors, a small portion of lung cancer patients remain unresponsive to checkpoint immunotherapy or may ultimately become resistant to these agents as a result of the complex immune modulatory network in the tumor microenvironment. Therefore, it is imperative to exploit novel immunotherapy targets to further expand the proportion of patients benefiting from immunotherapy. This review summarizes the molecular features, biological function, and clinical significance of several novel checkpoints that have important roles in lung cancer immune responses beyond the CTLA-4 and PD-1/PD-L1 axes, including the markers of co-inhibitory and co-stimulatory T lymphocyte pathways and inhibitory markers of macrophages and natural killer cells.