Predictive Biomarkers of Response to Immunotherapy in Metastatic Renal Cell Cancer

Raimondi A, Sepe P, Zattarin E, et al.
Front Oncol. 2020 Aug 12;10:1644.
DOI: 10.3389/fonc.2020.01644.



In the last decades, the therapeutic decision-making approach to metastatic renal cell cancer (mRCC) has dramatically changed thanks to the introduction in the treatment scenario of, first, anti-angiogenic agents and, afterward, immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). Immunotherapy is now the standard of care in pretreated mRCC patients and has recently entered even the first line setting. Nevertheless, in mRCC as well as in other tumor settings, a durable and clinically meaningful benefit from treatment with ICIs is not obtained for all patients treated. Therefore, the necessity to identify and validate predictive biomarkers of response to immunotherapy has emerged, in order to design the optimal treatment strategy for mRCC patients.


In this review, we present and discuss the most promising predictive biomarkers of response to ICIs in mRCC with the recent data available. In details, the first marker that was investigated is the immunohistochemical expression of programmed death receptor ligand 1 (PD-L1), showing a negative prognostic role in mRCC, but the debate about its potential predictive value is still open. Additionally, the high heterogeneity in PD-L1 determination methods adds complexity to this issue. Second, the tumor mutational or neoantigen burden is an emerging biomarker of increased response to immunotherapy, hypothesizing that the higher the TMB, the higher is the production of neoantigens, and thus the stimulation of anti-tumor immune response, even though controversial results have been obtained. Third, the tumor microenvironment, namely the different populations of the immune infiltrate, plays a key role in tumor progression and in the response to immunotherapy. Finally, several studies have collected evidence on the potential association of the occurrence of immune-related adverse events (irAEs) with the benefit from ICIs, first in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and melanoma, and recently even in mRCC.


Several promising biomarkers of response to immunotherapy with ICIs have been identified, though without conclusive results upon their potential predictive value in mRCC. Therefore, the results of the exploratory analyses of the recently presented first-line trials and hopefully of future prospective, biomarker-driven studies could provide useful tools to be applied in the everyday clinical practice.

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