Immune checkpoint inhibitors in lung cancer: current status and future directions
Recently, the immune checkpoint inhibitors that target programmed death 1 (PD-1)/programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) have made a breakthrough in treating advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with the efficacy of approximately 20%; among which, nivolumab has acquired treatment indications in lung squamous cell carcinoma. The inhibitors targeting cytotoxic T lymphocyte associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) are also undergoing clinical trials. Researches on immune checkpoint inhibitors have been rapidly implemented in a variety of different types of lung cancer, such as small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and locally advanced NSCLC, and these inhibitors began to be applied in combination with some established treatments, including chemotherapy, targeting therapy and radiotherapy. Undoubtedly, the immune checkpoint inhibitors have become a hot spot in the research and treatment of lung cancer. However, many problems wait to be solved, such as searching for ideal biomarkers, constituting the best criteria for curative effect evaluation, exploring different combination treatment models, and clearly understanding the mechanisms of primary or secondary drug resistance. Along with these problems to be successfully solved, the immune checkpoint inhibitors will have more broad applications in lung cancer therapy.