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Peripheral immune-based biomarkers in cancer immunotherapy: can we realize their predictive potential?

  • Nixon, Andrew B.1
  • Schalper, Kurt A.2
  • Jacobs, Ira3
  • Potluri, Shobha4
  • Wang, I-Ming5
  • Fleener, Catherine6, 7
  • 1 Department of Medicine/Medical Oncology, 133 Jones Building, Research Drive, Durham, NC, 27710, USA , Durham (United States)
  • 2 Yale Cancer Center, 333 Cedar St. FMP117, New Haven, CT, 06520-8023, USA , New Haven (United States)
  • 3 Early Oncology Development and Clinical Research, 219 East 42nd St, New York, NY, 10017-5755, USA , New York (United States)
  • 4 Pfizer Inc., Computational Biology, 230 E Grand Ave, South San Francisco, CA, 94080, USA , South San Francisco (United States)
  • 5 Pfizer Inc., 10777 Science Center Dr., San Diego, CA, 92121, USA , San Diego (United States)
  • 6 Pfizer Inc., Translational Oncology, La Jolla, CA, USA , La Jolla (United States)
  • 7 Present Address: Translational Science at Samumed, LLC, La Jolla, CA, USA , La Jolla (United States)
Published Article
Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Nov 27, 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s40425-019-0799-2
Springer Nature


The immunologic landscape of the host and tumor play key roles in determining how patients will benefit from immunotherapy, and a better understanding of these factors could help inform how well a tumor responds to treatment. Recent advances in immunotherapy and in our understanding of the immune system have revolutionized the treatment landscape for many advanced cancers. Notably, the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors has demonstrated durable responses in various malignancies. However, the response to such treatments is variable and currently unpredictable, the availability of predictive biomarkers is limited, and a substantial proportion of patients do not respond to immune checkpoint therapy. Identification and investigation of potential biomarkers that may predict sensitivity to immunotherapy is an area of active research. It is envisaged that a deeper understanding of immunity will aid in harnessing the full potential of immunotherapy, and allow appropriate patients to receive the most appropriate treatments. In addition to the identification of new biomarkers, the platforms and assays required to accurately and reproducibly measure biomarkers play a key role in ensuring consistency of measurement both within and between patients. In this review we discuss the current knowledge in the area of peripheral immune-based biomarkers, drawing information from the results of recent clinical studies of a number of different immunotherapy modalities in the treatment of cancer, including checkpoint inhibitors, bispecific antibodies, chimeric antigen receptor T cells, and anti-cancer vaccines. We also discuss the various technologies and approaches used in detecting and measuring circulatory biomarkers and the ongoing need for harmonization.

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