Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Cancer Therapy—How Can We Improve Clinical Benefits?

A special issue of Cancers (ISSN 2072-6694). This special issue belongs to the section "Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2022) | Viewed by 35187

Special Issue Editor

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have revolutionized the treatment of cancer with durable clinical responses observed even in patients with advanced refractory cancers. ICIs function to block inhibitory signals from tumor cells to immune effector cells, allowing activated T-cells to effectively target malignant cells. In this way, ICIs act to re-activate the antitumor endogenous cellular immunity. Unfortunately, despite the great promise in ICIs, resistance to these agents limits the number of patients able to achieve meaningful clinical benefits. As a result, along with the discovery of novel ICIs, the scientific community is placing efforts on the discovery of biomarkers for selecting patients most likely to respond to ICIs-base immunotherapies. The scope of this Special Issue will be to critically address mechanisms of resistance and/or non-responsiveness to ICI-based immunotherapies and how these can be circumvented via the discovery of novel ICIs, predictive biomarkers, and combinatorial therapeutic strategies.

Prof. Dr. Constantin N. Baxevanis
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • resistance
  • endogenous immunity
  • biomarkers
  • PD1/PDL1
  • CTLA4
  • tumor microenvironment
  • systemic response

Published Papers (14 papers)

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Editorial

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5 pages, 195 KiB  
Editorial
Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Cancer Therapy—How Can We Improve Clinical Benefits?
Cancers 2023, 15(3), 881; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers15030881 - 31 Jan 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1227
Abstract
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are in the spotlight of cancer treatment by increasing the probability for long-term survival in patients with metastatic disease and by considerably prolonging progression-free survival in patients at early disease stages [...] Full article

Research

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19 pages, 3477 KiB  
Article
Co-Targeting Luminal B Breast Cancer with S-Adenosylmethionine and Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Reduces Primary Tumor Growth and Progression, and Metastasis to Lungs and Bone
Cancers 2023, 15(1), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers15010048 - 22 Dec 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2182
Abstract
Breast cancer (BCa) is the most prevalent cancer in females and has a high rate of mortality, especially due to increased metastasis to skeletal and non-skeletal sites. Despite the marked clinical accomplishment of immune checkpoint inhibitor (CPI) therapy in patients with several cancers, [...] Read more.
Breast cancer (BCa) is the most prevalent cancer in females and has a high rate of mortality, especially due to increased metastasis to skeletal and non-skeletal sites. Despite the marked clinical accomplishment of immune checkpoint inhibitor (CPI) therapy in patients with several cancers, it has had limited success in luminal subtypes of BCa. Accordingly, recent efforts have focused on combination therapy with CPI, including epigenetic modulators, to increase response rates of CPI in luminal BCa. We have previously shown that S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), the ubiquitous methyl donor, has strong anti-cancer effects in various cancers, including all subtypes of BCa. In the current study, we took a novel approach and examined the effect of CPI alone and in combination with SAM on tumor growth and metastasis in a syngeneic mouse model of luminal B BCa. We showed that SAM decreases cell proliferation, colony-formation (survival), and invasion of luminal B BCa cell lines (Eo771, R221A) in vitro. In in vivo studies, in Eo771 tumor-bearing mice, either SAM or anti-PD-1 antibody treatment alone significantly reduced tumor growth and progression, while the SAM+anti-PD-1 combination treatment had the highest anti-cancer efficacy of all groups. The SAM+anti-PD-1 combination reduced the percentage of animals with lung metastasis, as well as total metastatic lesion area, compared to control. Additionally, the SAM+anti-PD-1 combination significantly reduced the skeletal lesion area and protected tibial integrity to a greater extent than the monotherapies in an Eo771 bone metastasis model. Transcriptome analysis of Eo771 primary tumors revealed significant downregulation of pro-metastatic genes, including Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and related pathways. On the other hand, CD8+ T cell infiltration, CD8+ T cell cytotoxicity (elevated granzymes), and immunostimulatory genes and pathways were significantly upregulated by the combination treatment. The results presented point to a combination of SAM with CPI as a possible treatment for luminal B BCa that should be tested in clinical studies. Full article
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20 pages, 1034 KiB  
Article
A Retrospective, Single-Institution Experience of Bullous Pemphigoid as an Adverse Effect of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
Cancers 2022, 14(21), 5451; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14215451 - 05 Nov 2022
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 2011
Abstract
Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a class of cancer treatment drugs that stimulate the immune system’s ability to fight tumor cells. These drugs are monoclonal antibodies targeting im-mune-inhibiting proteins on cancer cells, such as CTLA-4 and PD-1/PD-L1. Immune checkpoint inhibitors cause many immune-related adverse [...] Read more.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a class of cancer treatment drugs that stimulate the immune system’s ability to fight tumor cells. These drugs are monoclonal antibodies targeting im-mune-inhibiting proteins on cancer cells, such as CTLA-4 and PD-1/PD-L1. Immune checkpoint inhibitors cause many immune-related adverse events. Cutaneous toxicities are of the most common adverse effects and occur with a range of severity. Bullous Pemphigoid is a rare adverse event with a high impact on quality of life that may occur after immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment. In this article, we investigate current research on immune checkpoint inhibitors, cutaneous adverse events, and common presentations and treatments, with a specific focus on Bullous Pemphigoid, its characteristics, onset timing, and treatment. Significant findings include a negative skew in the onset of presentation. Furthermore, we describe exclusive cases. Full article
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15 pages, 2739 KiB  
Article
Comprehensive Genomic Profiling Reveals Clinical Associations in Response to Immune Therapy in Head and Neck Cancer
Cancers 2022, 14(14), 3476; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14143476 - 18 Jul 2022
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2251
Abstract
Comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) provides information regarding cancer-related genetic aberrations. However, its clinical utility in recurrent/metastatic head and neck cancer (R/M HNC) remains unknown. Additionally, predictive biomarkers for immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) should be fully elucidated because of their low response rate. Here, [...] Read more.
Comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) provides information regarding cancer-related genetic aberrations. However, its clinical utility in recurrent/metastatic head and neck cancer (R/M HNC) remains unknown. Additionally, predictive biomarkers for immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) should be fully elucidated because of their low response rate. Here, we analyzed the clinical utility of CGP and identified predictive biomarkers that respond to ICIs in R/M HNC. We evaluated over 1100 cases of HNC using the nationwide genetic clinical database established by the Center for Cancer Genomics and Advanced Therapeutics (C-CAT) and 54 cases in an institution-based study. The C-CAT database revealed that 23% of the cases were candidates for clinical trials, and 5% received biomarker-matched therapy, including NTRK fusion. Our institution-based study showed that 9% of SCC cases and 25% of salivary gland cancer cases received targeted agents. In SCC cases, the tumor mutational burden (TMB) high (≥10 Mut/Mb) group showed long-term survival (>2 years) in response to ICI therapy, whereas the PD-L1 combined positive score showed no significant difference in progression-free survival. In multivariate analysis, CCND1 amplification was associated with a lower response to ICIs. Our results indicate that CGP may be useful in identifying prognostic biomarkers for immunotherapy in patients with HNC. Full article
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14 pages, 3051 KiB  
Communication
Is the Efficacy of Adding Ramucirumab to Docetaxel Related to a History of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in the Real-World Clinical Practice?
Cancers 2022, 14(12), 2970; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14122970 - 16 Jun 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1633
Abstract
Reports on the efficacy of second-line treatment with cytotoxic agents after treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors are limited. Here, we retrospectively evaluated patients in the real-world clinical practice treated with docetaxel or docetaxel plus ramucirumab. Ninety-three patients treated with docetaxel or docetaxel plus [...] Read more.
Reports on the efficacy of second-line treatment with cytotoxic agents after treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors are limited. Here, we retrospectively evaluated patients in the real-world clinical practice treated with docetaxel or docetaxel plus ramucirumab. Ninety-three patients treated with docetaxel or docetaxel plus ramucirumab as a second- or later-line therapy were included. The patients were categorized into the following four treatment groups: docetaxel group (n = 50), docetaxel/ramucirumab group (n = 43) and pretreated (n = 45) and untreated (n = 48) with immune checkpoint inhibitor groups. The docetaxel/ramucirumab group showed an overall response rate of 57.1% in patients pretreated with immune checkpoint inhibitors and 20% in untreated patients. The docetaxel group showed an overall response rate of 15.4% in patients pretreated with immune checkpoint inhibitors and 5.0% in untreated patients. The median time-to-treatment failure and the median survival time were longer in the docetaxel/ramucirumab group than in the docetaxel group in both immune checkpoint inhibitor-pretreated and -untreated groups. There was no difference in time-to-treatment failure and overall survival between immune checkpoint inhibitor-pretreated and -untreated groups in each docetaxel and docetaxel/ramucirumab treatment group. In conclusion, our real-world data show that the addition of ramucirumab to docetaxel was superior to docetaxel monotherapy for improving time-to-treatment failure and overall survival, irrespective of previous treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Full article
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13 pages, 5003 KiB  
Article
Expression of CD47 and SIRPα Macrophage Immune-Checkpoint Pathway in Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer
Cancers 2022, 14(7), 1801; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14071801 - 01 Apr 2022
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 2901
Abstract
Background: Cancer cells escape macrophage phagocytosis by expressing the CD47 integrin-associated protein that binds to the SIRPα ligand (signal regulatory protein alpha) expressed by macrophages. Immunotherapy targeting this pathway is under clinical development. Methods: We investigated the expression of CD47/SIRPα molecules in a [...] Read more.
Background: Cancer cells escape macrophage phagocytosis by expressing the CD47 integrin-associated protein that binds to the SIRPα ligand (signal regulatory protein alpha) expressed by macrophages. Immunotherapy targeting this pathway is under clinical development. Methods: We investigated the expression of CD47/SIRPα molecules in a series of 98 NSCLCs, in parallel with the infiltration of tumor stroma by CD68+ macrophages, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), and PD-L1/PD-1 molecules. Results: Extensive membranous CD47 expression by cancer cells characterized 29/98 cases. SIRPα and CD68 were expressed, to a varying extent, by tumor-associated macrophages (Μφ, TAMs). A high CD68Mφ-score in inner tumor areas was linked with improved overall survival (p = 0.005); and this was independent of the stage (p = 0.02, hazard ratio 0.4). In contrast, high SIRPα expression by CD68+ TAMs (SIRPα/CD68-ratio) was linked with CD47 expression by cancer cells, low TIL-score, and poor prognosis (p = 0.02). A direct association of CD47 expression by cancer cells and the % FOXP3+ TILs (p = 0.01, r = 0.25) was also noted. Conclusions: TAMs play an important role in the prognosis of operable NSCLC. As SIRPα+ macrophages adversely affect prognosis, it is suggested that the CD47/SIRPα axis is a sound target for adjuvant immunotherapy policies, aiming to improve the cure rates in operable NSCLC. Full article
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18 pages, 3300 KiB  
Article
Association between Antibiotic Exposure and Systemic Immune Parameters in Cancer Patients Receiving Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy
Cancers 2022, 14(5), 1327; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14051327 - 04 Mar 2022
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 2956
Abstract
Antibiotic administration is associated with worse clinical outcomes and changes to the gut microbiome in cancer patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI). However, the effects of antibiotics on systemic immune function are unknown. We, therefore, evaluated antibiotic exposure, therapeutic responses, and multiplex panels [...] Read more.
Antibiotic administration is associated with worse clinical outcomes and changes to the gut microbiome in cancer patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI). However, the effects of antibiotics on systemic immune function are unknown. We, therefore, evaluated antibiotic exposure, therapeutic responses, and multiplex panels of 40 serum cytokines and 124 antibodies at baseline and six weeks after ICI initiation, with p < 0.05 and false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.2 considered significant. A total of 251 patients were included, of whom the 135 (54%) who received antibiotics had lower response rates and shorter survival. Patients who received antibiotics prior to ICI initiation had modestly but significantly lower baseline levels of nucleolin, MDA5, c-reactive protein, and liver cytosol antigen type 1 (LC1) antibodies, as well as higher levels of heparin sulfate and Matrigel antibodies. After ICI initiation, antibiotic-treated patients had significantly lower levels of MDA5, CENP.B, and nucleolin antibodies. Although there were no clear differences in cytokines in the overall cohort, in the lung cancer subset (53% of the study population), we observed differences in IFN-γ, IL-8, and macrophage inflammatory proteins. In ICI-treated patients, antibiotic exposure is associated with changes in certain antibodies and cytokines. Understanding the relationship between these factors may improve the clinical management of patients receiving ICI. Full article
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Review

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21 pages, 1524 KiB  
Review
Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) in Epithelial Ovarian Cancer: Heterogeneity, Prognostic Impact, and Relationship with Immune Checkpoints
Cancers 2022, 14(21), 5332; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14215332 - 29 Oct 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2195
Abstract
Epithelial ovarian cancers (EOC) are often diagnosed at an advanced stage with carcinomatosis and a poor prognosis. First-line treatment is based on a chemotherapy regimen combining a platinum-based drug and a taxane-based drug along with surgery. More than half of the patients will [...] Read more.
Epithelial ovarian cancers (EOC) are often diagnosed at an advanced stage with carcinomatosis and a poor prognosis. First-line treatment is based on a chemotherapy regimen combining a platinum-based drug and a taxane-based drug along with surgery. More than half of the patients will have concern about a recurrence. To improve the outcomes, new therapeutics are needed, and diverse strategies, such as immunotherapy, are currently being tested in EOC. To better understand the global immune contexture in EOC, several studies have been performed to decipher the landscape of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). CD8+ TILs are usually considered effective antitumor immune effectors that immune checkpoint inhibitors can potentially activate to reject tumor cells. To synthesize the knowledge of TILs in EOC, we conducted a review of studies published in MEDLINE or EMBASE in the last 10 years according to the PRISMA guidelines. The description and role of TILs in EOC prognosis are reviewed from the published data. The links between TILs, DNA repair deficiency, and ICs have been studied. Finally, this review describes the role of TILs in future immunotherapy for EOC. Full article
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28 pages, 1833 KiB  
Review
Checkpoint Inhibitors in Cancer Therapy: Clinical Benefits for Head and Neck Cancers
Cancers 2022, 14(20), 4985; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14204985 - 11 Oct 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2365
Abstract
Recently, considerable progress has been achieved in cancer immunotherapy. Targeted immune checkpoint therapies have been established for several forms of cancers, which resulted in a tremendous positive impact on patient survival, even in more advanced tumor stages. With a better understanding of cellular [...] Read more.
Recently, considerable progress has been achieved in cancer immunotherapy. Targeted immune checkpoint therapies have been established for several forms of cancers, which resulted in a tremendous positive impact on patient survival, even in more advanced tumor stages. With a better understanding of cellular responses to immune checkpoint therapies, it will soon be feasible to find targeted compounds which will make personalized medicine practicable. This is a great opportunity, but it also sets tremendous challenges on both the scientific and clinical aspects. Head and neck tumors evade immune surveillance through various mechanisms. They contain fewer lymphocytes (natural killer cells) than normal tissue with an accumulation of immunosuppressive regulatory T cells. Standard therapies for HNSCC, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, are becoming more advantageous by targeting immune checkpoints and employing combination therapies. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the expanded therapeutic options, particularly the combination of immune checkpoint inhibition with various conventional and novel therapeutics for head and neck tumor patients. Full article
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14 pages, 2111 KiB  
Review
Oncolytic Adenoviruses: The Cold War against Cancer Finally Turns Hot
Cancers 2022, 14(19), 4701; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14194701 - 27 Sep 2022
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 2438
Abstract
Oncolytic viruses, colloquially referred to as “living drugs”, amplify themselves and the therapeutic transgenes that they carry to stimulate an immune response both locally and systemically. Remarkable exceptions aside, such as the recent 14-patient trial with the PD-1 inhibitor, dostarlimab, in mismatch repair [...] Read more.
Oncolytic viruses, colloquially referred to as “living drugs”, amplify themselves and the therapeutic transgenes that they carry to stimulate an immune response both locally and systemically. Remarkable exceptions aside, such as the recent 14-patient trial with the PD-1 inhibitor, dostarlimab, in mismatch repair (MMR) deficient rectal cancer, where the complete response rate was 100%, checkpoint inhibitors are not cure-alls, which suggests the need for a combination partner like oncolytic viruses to prime and augment their activity. This review focuses on adenoviruses, the most clinically investigated of all the oncolytic viruses. It covers specific design features of clinical adenoviral candidates and highlights their potential both alone and in combination with checkpoint inhibitors in clinical trials to turn immunologically “cold” and unresponsive tumors into “hotter” and more responsive ones through a domino effect. Finally, a “mix-and-match” combination of therapies based on the paradigm of the cancer-immunity cycle is proposed to augment the immune responses of oncolytic adenoviruses. Full article
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Graphical abstract

25 pages, 1424 KiB  
Review
Incorporating Immunotherapy in the Management of Gastric Cancer: Molecular and Clinical Implications
Cancers 2022, 14(18), 4378; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14184378 - 08 Sep 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2786
Abstract
Gastric cancer has a median survival of 11 months, and this poor prognosis has not improved over the last 30 years. Recent pre-clinical data suggest that there is high tumour-related neoantigen expression in gastric cancer cells, suggesting that a clinical strategy that enhances [...] Read more.
Gastric cancer has a median survival of 11 months, and this poor prognosis has not improved over the last 30 years. Recent pre-clinical data suggest that there is high tumour-related neoantigen expression in gastric cancer cells, suggesting that a clinical strategy that enhances the host’s immune system against cancer cells may be a successful approach to improve clinical outcomes. Additionally, there has been an increasing amount of translational evidence highlighting the relevance of PD-L1 expression in gastric cancer cells, indicating that PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors may be useful. Several molecular subgroups of gastric cancer have been identified to respond with excellent outcomes to immunotherapy, including microsatellite instable tumours, tumours bearing a high tumour mutational burden, and tumours related to a chronic EBV infection. In gastric cancer, immunotherapy has produced durable responses in chemo-refractory patients; however, most recently there has been a lot of enthusiasm as several large-scale clinical trials highlight the improved survival noted from the incorporation of immunotherapy in the first line setting for advanced gastric cancer. Our review aims to discuss current pre-clinical and clinical data supporting the innovative role of immunotherapy in gastric cancer. Full article
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25 pages, 1363 KiB  
Review
Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Cancer Therapy—How to Overcome Drug Resistance?
Cancers 2022, 14(15), 3575; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14153575 - 22 Jul 2022
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 3214
Abstract
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), antagonists used to remove tumor suppression of immune cells, have been widely used in clinical settings. Their high antitumor effect makes them crucial for treating cancer after surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. However, with the advent of ICIs [...] Read more.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), antagonists used to remove tumor suppression of immune cells, have been widely used in clinical settings. Their high antitumor effect makes them crucial for treating cancer after surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. However, with the advent of ICIs and their use by a large number of patients, more clinical data have gradually shown that some cancer patients still have resistance to ICI treatment, which makes some patients unable to benefit from their antitumor effect. Therefore, it is vital to understand their antitumor and drug resistance mechanisms. In this review, we focused on the antitumor action sites and mechanisms of different types of ICIs. We then listed the main possible mechanisms of ICI resistance based on recent studies. Finally, we proposed current and future solutions for the resistance of ICIs, providing theoretical support for improving their clinical antitumor effect. Full article
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13 pages, 475 KiB  
Review
The Effects of Physical Activity on Cancer Patients Undergoing Treatment with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors: A Scoping Review
Cancers 2021, 13(24), 6364; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers13246364 - 18 Dec 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2535
Abstract
Background: Cancer therapies are associated with multiple adverse effects, including (but not limited to) cancer-related fatigue (CRF). Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), occurring in up to 25% of patients. Physical activity has been shown [...] Read more.
Background: Cancer therapies are associated with multiple adverse effects, including (but not limited to) cancer-related fatigue (CRF). Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), occurring in up to 25% of patients. Physical activity has been shown to help reduce CRF through modulating the immune system, and may synergistically aid in the anti-tumor effects of ICIs. This review describes the nature and scope of evidence for the effects associated with concurrent physical activity while undergoing ICI therapy. Method: Scoping review methodology was utilized to identify studies, extract data, and collate and summarize results. Results: In literature published from January 2010 through to August 2021, only one human study and three pre-clinical studies met inclusion criteria. Conclusion: Existing evidence supports that physical activity is associated with decreased treatment-related toxicities such as CRF. However, further investigation is warranted. The dearth of clinical studies illustrates the need for more research to address this question, to guide patients and their providers in the application of appropriate physical activity interventions in those patients undergoing ICI. Full article
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Other

22 pages, 2998 KiB  
Systematic Review
Radiomic Signatures Associated with CD8+ Tumour-Infiltrating Lymphocytes: A Systematic Review and Quality Assessment Study
Cancers 2022, 14(15), 3656; https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers14153656 - 27 Jul 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3140
Abstract
The tumour immune microenvironment influences the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors. Within this microenvironment are CD8-expressing tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (CD8+ TILs), which are an important mediator and marker of anti-tumour response. In practice, the assessment of CD8+ TILs via tissue sampling involves [...] Read more.
The tumour immune microenvironment influences the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors. Within this microenvironment are CD8-expressing tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (CD8+ TILs), which are an important mediator and marker of anti-tumour response. In practice, the assessment of CD8+ TILs via tissue sampling involves logistical challenges. Radiomics, the high-throughput extraction of features from medical images, may offer a novel and non-invasive alternative. We performed a systematic review of the available literature reporting radiomic signatures associated with CD8+ TILs. We also aimed to evaluate the methodological quality of the identified studies using the Radiomics Quality Score (RQS) tool, and the risk of bias and applicability with the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS-2) tool. Articles were searched from inception until 31 December 2021, in three electronic databases, and screened against eligibility criteria. Twenty-seven articles were included. A wide variety of cancers have been studied. The reported radiomic signatures were heterogeneous, with very limited reproducibility between studies of the same cancer group. The overall quality of studies was found to be less than desirable (mean RQS = 33.3%), indicating a need for technical maturation. Some potential avenues for further investigation are also discussed. Full article
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