Current status of immunotherapy in metastatic colorectal cancer

Pawel Wrobel, Shahid Ahmed
International Journal of Colorectal Disease 2019, 34 (1): 13-25

BACKGROUND: Immunotherapy focuses on selectively enhancing the host's immune response against malignant disease. It has been investigated as an important treatment modality against malignant disease for many years, but until recently its use was mostly limited to a few cancers. The advent of new immunemodulating agents in the recent past has changed the landscape for management of many solid tumors. Currently, immunotherapy offers a valuable, and in many cases, a more effective alternate to the conventional cytotoxic therapy. Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death. Despite progress in systemic therapy, most patients with metastatic colorectal cancer die of their disease. There is an unmet need for more effective treatments for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. The current data support that colorectal tumors are immunoresponsive and a subset of patients with advanced disease achieve long term benefit with immunotherapy.

OBJECTIVES: This review aims to provide the current status of immunotherapy in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

METHODS: We researched sources published in the English language between January 2000 and August 2018 and listed within the PubMed database using combinations of the key words and reviewed the proceedings of international cancer conferences and current guidelines made by major cancer societies.

RESULTS: In this review, we summarize the current status of research on immunotherapy in metastatic colorectal cancer and discuss various treatment modalities including checkpoint inhibitors, cancer vaccines, adoptive cell transfer, oncolytic virus therapy, and various other agents that are under investigation with a special emphasis on immune checkpoint inhibitors. Since the toxicity profile of immunotherapy is very different from conventional cytotoxic agents and could involve any organ system, we briefly review common adverse effects and their management.


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