Role of Surgical Pathologist for the Detection of Immuno-oncologic Predictive Factors in Non-small Cell Lung Cancers

Mohanty SK, Mishra SK, Amin MB, Agaimy A, Fuchs F (2023)

Publication Type: Journal article, Review article

Publication year: 2023


Book Volume: 30

Pages Range: 174-194

Journal Issue: 3

DOI: 10.1097/PAP.0000000000000395


Until very recently, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy have been the mainstay of treatment in non-small cell carcinomas (NSCLCs). However, recent advances in molecular immunology have unveiled some of the complexity of the mechanisms regulating cellular immune responses and led to the successful targeting of immune checkpoints in attempts to enhance antitumor T-cell responses. Immune checkpoint molecules such as cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated protein-4, programmed cell death protein-1, and programmed death ligand (PD-L) 1 have been shown to play central roles in evading cancer immunity. Thus, these molecules have been targeted by inhibitors for the management of cancers forming the basis of immunotherapy. Advanced NSCLC has been the paradigm for the benefits of immunotherapy in any cancer. Treatment decisions are made based on the expression of PD-L1 on the tumor cells and the presence or absence of driver mutations. Patients with high PD-L1 expression (≥50%) and no driver mutations are treated with single-agent immunotherapy whereas, for all other patients with a lower level of PD-L1 expression, a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy is preferred. Thus, PD-L1 blockers are the only immunotherapeutic agents approved in advanced NSCLC without any oncogenic driver mutations. PD-L1 immunohistochemistry, however, may not be the best biomarker in view of its dynamic nature in time and space, and the benefits may be seen regardless of PD -L1 expression. Each immunotherapy molecule is prescribed based on the levels of PD-L1 expression as assessed by a Food and Drug Administration-approved companion diagnostic assay. Other biomarkers that have been studied include tumor mutational burden, the T-effector signature, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, radiomic assays, inflammation index, presence or absence of immune-related adverse events and specific driver mutations, and gut as well as local microbiome. At the current time, none of these biomarkers are routinely used in the clinical decision-making process for immunotherapy in NSCLC. However, in individual cases, they can be useful adjuncts to conventional therapy. This review describes our current understanding of the role of biomarkers as predictors of response to immune checkpoint molecules. To begin with a brief on cancer immunology in general and in NSCLC, in particular, is discussed. In the end, recent advancements in laboratory techniques for refining biomarker assays are described.

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Mohanty, S.K., Mishra, S.K., Amin, M.B., Agaimy, A., & Fuchs, F. (2023). Role of Surgical Pathologist for the Detection of Immuno-oncologic Predictive Factors in Non-small Cell Lung Cancers. Advances in Anatomic Pathology, 30(3), 174-194.


Mohanty, Sambit K., et al. "Role of Surgical Pathologist for the Detection of Immuno-oncologic Predictive Factors in Non-small Cell Lung Cancers." Advances in Anatomic Pathology 30.3 (2023): 174-194.

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