Defining unique clinical hallmarks for immune checkpoint inhibitor-based therapies Journal Articles uri icon

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  • IntroductionImmuno-oncology therapies, including immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), have transformed cancer care and have brought into question whether classic oncology efficacy assessments adequately describe the distinctive responses observed with these agents. With more ICI-based therapies being approved across multiple tumor types, it is essential to define unique clinical hallmarks of these agents and their associated assessments to better reflect the therapeutic impact for both patients and physicians. Long-term survival and objective responses, such as depth and durability of responses, treatment-free survival, efficacy in brain metastases, improved health-related quality of life, and unique safety profiles, are among the hallmarks that have emerged for ICI therapies. An established clinical hallmark is a sustained long-term survival, as evidenced by a delayed separation of Kaplan-Meier survival curves, and a plateau at ~3 years. Combination ICI therapies provide the opportunity to raise this plateau, thereby affording durable survival benefits to more patients. Deepening of responses over time is a unique clinical ICI hallmark, with patients responding long term and with more durable complete responses. Depth of response has demonstrated prognostic value for long-term survival in some cancers, and several ICI studies have shown sustained responses even after discontinuing ICI therapy, offering the potential for treatment-free intervals. Although clinical evidence supporting efficacy in brain metastases is limited, favorable ICI intracranial responses have been seen that are largely concordant with extracranial responses. While patient outcomes can be significantly improved with ICIs, they are associated with unique immune-mediated adverse reactions (IMARs), including delayed ICI toxicities, and may require multidisciplinary management for optimal care. Interestingly, patients discontinuing ICIs for IMARs may maintain responses similar to patients who did not discontinue for an IMAR, whether they restarted ICI therapy or not.ConclusionHerein, we comprehensively review and refine the clinical hallmarks uniquely associated with ICI therapies, which not only will rejuvenate our assessment of ICI therapeutic outcomes but also will lead to a greater appreciation of the effectiveness of ICI therapies.


  • Michielin, Olivier
  • Lalani, Aly-Khan
  • Robert, Caroline
  • Sharma, Padmanee
  • Peters, Solange

publication date

  • January 2022