Collection |

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2018

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation”. Their pioneering work on the CTLA4 and PD1 immune checkpoints revealed that these pathways act as so-called ‘brakes’ on the immune system, and showed that inhibition of these checkpoint pathways allows T cells to more effectively eradicate cancer cells. This research laid the foundation for the clinical development of immune checkpoint inhibitors, which have dramatically improved outcomes for many people with cancer.

This Collection presents research, review, news and comment articles from Nature Research to celebrate the award. The collection content is editorially independent and the sole responsibility of Springer Nature.

Core collection – free

Patients receiving anticancer therapies based on immune-checkpoint blockade (ICB) often experience clinical benefits from such treatments, but unconventional patterns of response can be observed, emphasizing the importance of using a specific approach to evaluating responses to immunotherapy. Herein, the authors review the biological mechanisms underlying the response patterns associated with ICB, describe strategies for the assessments of such responses, and highlight the ongoing efforts to identify biomarkers to guide treatment with ICB.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology

Immuno-oncology has become the fastest-growing area in the pharmaceutical industry. In this Perspective, Hoos provides an overview of the history of immuno-oncology and investigates the factors that have led to its success. Moreover, he discusses the three generations of immunotherapies that have been developed since 2011 and provides an outlook to the future directions of drug discovery and development in immuno-oncology.

Outlook | | Nature Reviews Drug Discovery

This Timeline looks back at the past 60 years of fundamental research into the mechanisms of T cell-mediated cytotoxicity, which has culminated in recent interest in the therapeutic manipulation of cytotoxic T cell responses for cancer immunotherapy.

Perspective | | Nature Reviews Immunology

Prostate cancer is refractory to anti-CTLA-4 therapy, but the reason why is unclear. Padmanee Sharma and colleagues report that the inhibitory molecule VISTA, which negatively regulates T cells, is upregulated on macrophages in prostate tumors that have been treated with anti-CTLA-4 and may play a role in resistance to this immunotherapy.

Brief Communication | | Nature Medicine

Desmoplastic melanoma (DM) is a rare subtype of skin cancer, characterized by dense stroma and a lack of targetable mutations, but a high mutational load related to UV exposure. The authors conduct a retrospective pathology review of 1,058 melanoma patients treated with immune checkpoint blockade therapy. They identify 60 cases of DM and find that around 70% of these respond to PD-1 or PD-L1 blockade. DM shows high infiltration of CD8 cells and high expression of PD-L1, with specific patterns associated with response to immunotherapy. The analysis suggests that DM has one of the highest rates of response to immunotherapy, and that this rate is not related to mutational load but correlates with immune cell infiltration.

Letter | | Nature

From the winners

Successful translation of modern molecular immunology into effective cancer immunotherapy is threatened by regulatory barriers and challenges to the development of novel agents and combinatorial strategies through effective public-private partnerships. For its promise to be fully realized, both the National Cancer Institute and Food and Drug Administration must take active steps to help academic investigators and companies jointly navigate the pathways from laboratory to clinic.

Commentary | | Nature Medicine

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the immunotherapy agents sipuleucel-T and ipilimumab for the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer and melanoma, respectively. This Opinion article discusses how immunotherapy might be improved by understanding the mechanisms that are responsible for clinical benefit, identifying biomarkers that predict response or toxicity and developing combination therapies.

Opinion | | Nature Reviews Cancer

Combination therapy with α-CTLA-4 and α-PD-1 is showing improved therapeutic effects in clinical trials. Here, the authors report that mechanistically in bladder cancer such effect depends upon an upregulation of T cell activity mediated by the IL-7/IL-7R and IFN-γ/IFN-γR signalling pathways.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Oncolytic viruses induce a variety of immune targets in the infected tumours. Here, the authors show that Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV) upregulates the inducible co-stimulator (ICOS) on T cells and that intratumoral targeting of ICOS with engineered NDV in combination with CTLA-4 blockade induces systemic anti-tumour immunity in mice.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The functional significance of T-cell infiltration in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma in relation to desmoplastic stroma is unclear. Here the authors develop a method to spatially resolve tumour stroma composition and find that spatial T-cell infiltration correlates with patient prognosis regardless of desmoplasia.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

It's common in chronic viral disease for the immune system to grow accustomed to the infection. Normally CD8 T cells retain a ‘memory’ of the viruses they encounter, so they can respond rapidly to a new infection. In a chronic infection the memory cells lose this capacity, but the nature of this ‘exhausted’ state is not well understood. Barber et al. have now found a possible cause in a study of a mouse infection model. The inhibitory immune receptor gene PD-1 is much more active in exhausted than in normal CD8 T cells, and administration of antibodies that block PD-1 action restores function in virus-specific T cells and also reduces virus levels. The discovery of a T-cell exhaustion mechanism suggests a route to immunological strategies for treating chronic viral infections.

Article | | Nature

Research

In many individuals, immunosuppression is mediated by T-lymphocyte associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death-1 (PD-1), immunomodulatory receptors expressed on T cells. Matthew Gubin et al. use the MCA mouse sarcoma model to show that mutant tumour antigens serve as targets for CD8+ T-cell responses, mediating tumour regression after checkpoint blockade immunotherapy with anti-PD-1 and/or anti-CTLA-4. The authors demonstrate that these antigens can be used effectively in therapeutic vaccines, suggesting a possible route to personalized cancer vaccines.

Letter | | Nature

Therapies that target the human cell-surface programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor have shown unprecedented clinical responses in a variety of cancer types. Here Paul Tumeh et al. investigate the dynamics of T-cell responses in tumour tissues of patients with advanced melanoma treated with pembrolizumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody directed against human PD-1. Clinical efficacy is shown to correlate with increased frequencies of pre-existing CD8+ T cells and PD-1 and PD-L1 expression at the invasive tumour margin and within tumours.

Letter | | Nature

The transmembrane protein PD-L1 (programmed death-ligand 1) is upregulated in many different types of cancer and protocols targeting its interactions have shown promise in pre-clinical studies. Here Roy Herbst et al. present clinical and correlative biomarker results from a phase I clinical trial in patients with solid tumours of various types treated with the engineered anti-PD-L1 antibody MPDL3280A. The findings indicate that PD-L1 expression on tumour-infiltrating immune cells is associated with clinical response to MPDL3280A.

Letter | | Nature

Thomas Powles et al. report the results of a clinical phase I study in metastatic urothelial bladder cancer treated with the anti-PDL1 antibody MPDL3280A. The transmembrane protein PD-L1 (programmed death-ligand 1) is upregulated in many different types of cancer and protocols targeting its interactions have shown promise in pre-clinical studies. This paper shows MPDL3280A to be particularly active against tumours with PD-L1-positive tumour-infiltrating immune cells. In addition, PD-L1-negative patients achieved a 11% response, which could be of significance given the historical rates of response in this type of cancer.

Letter | | Nature

Some types of colon tumour are considered immunologically cold owing to their limited response to immunotherapy. Here, the authors model metastatic colorectal tumours using compound genetic mouse models and organoid transplantation and find that their immunogenicity is at least partly regulated by TGFβ signalling in the tumour microenvironment. Stromal-derived TGFβ seems to regulate T-cell differentiation and exclude immune infiltration from tumours. Inhibition of TGFβ can effectively reduce the growth of metastatic colorectal cancer, and synergizes with anti-PD1 blockade, suggesting potential combination strategies for more potent immunotherapy for colorectal cancer.

Letter | | Nature

Immune checkpoint blockade is showing clinical promise in the treatment of several cancer types, but the determinants of response need to be better established. Sanjeev Mariathasan and colleagues show that specific immune cell phenotypes and a high neoantigen burden are predictors of good responses to therapy with atezolizumab, an anti-PD-L1 agent, in patients with metastatic urothelial carcinoma. Lack of response to therapy is associated with increased TGFβ signalling in fibroblasts in the tumour microenvironment. Combining TGFβ blockade with immune checkpoint blockade in mouse models increases the anti-tumour efficacy of the therapy, suggesting that identifying and targeting microenvironmental regulators of anti-tumour immunity may increase the reach of immunotherapy approaches.

Letter | | Nature

The clinical management of metastatic melanoma requires predictors of the response to checkpoint blockade. Here, the authors use immunological assays to identify potential prognostic/predictive biomarkers in circulating blood cells and in tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes from patients with resected stage III melanoma.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

A subset of cancer patients treated with immune checkpoint blockade develops colitis. Here the authors show that lower abundance of Bacteroidetes and vitamin B biosynthetic modules in fecal samples of melanoma patients can predict their susceptibility to colitis following anti-CTLA-4 treatment.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Photothermal therapy can induce an anti-tumour immune response by producing tumour-associated antigens. Here, the authors design a nanoparticle that simultaneously acts as a photothermal agent and an immune-adjuvant and demonstrate the anti-tumour efficacy in combination with anti-CTLA4 therapy in preclinical murine cancer models.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Acquired resistance is a major problem in cancer immunotherapy. Here the authors report a study of two patients with Merkel cell carcinoma under immunotherapy treatment who develop resistance after deep responses for >1 year and identified a novel mechanism of acquired, gene-specific transcriptional suppression of HLAs.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Blocking immune checkpoints is a promising strategy to treat lung cancer, but patients often become resistant to the therapy. Here, the authors analyse resistance in mouse models of lung cancer and show in mice and two patients, an increase in the expression of TIM3, which is also involved in the immune response to cancer.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Immune checkpoints blockade (ICB) is a viable anti-cancer strategy. Here the authors show that nuclear receptor NR2F6 acts as an immune checkpoint in T cells and, using mouse models and human T cells, they show NR2F6 inhibition might improve current ICB therapy or work as an alternative therapeutic strategy.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Antitumor T cells can be inhibited by a TGFβ rich tumor microenvironment. The authors develop bifunctional proteins comprising CTLA-4 or PD-L1 immune checkpoint-targeted antibodies fused to a “TGFβ trap” and show that they counteract tumor immune tolerance and enhance the efficacy of these antibodies.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Reviews and Comment

The aim of immunotherapy is to treat cancer by enabling the immune system to attack the tumour. In the past decade, remarkable results have been obtained in clinical trials with immunotherapy for patients with advanced-stage cancer. Two types of immunotherapy have been used in the majority of trials conducted in the past decade: immune cell-targeted antibody therapy and adoptive cellular therapy. Herein, the latest advances in both modalities are discussed, including settings for which testing combination strategies and 'armoured' CAR T cells are recommended.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology

In this Review, the authors detail the complex expression patterns and regulation of programmed cell death protein 1 (PD1) and its ligands. The authors focus on the importance of understanding these pathways in order to optimize the efficiency and safety of immune checkpoint blockade in patients.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Immunology

Recent clinical trials have shown that blocking immune checkpoint molecules can boost antitumour immune responses. In this Review, the authors consider whether targeting these pathways could also be used to combat a range of infectious diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and chronic viral infections.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Immunology

Urothelial bladder cancer is one of the most common, and most deadly, malignant diseases worldwide. This Primer summarizes the current epidemiological and outcome data of patients with this disease, as well as describing how new molecular subtyping strategies might improve patient care in the future.

Primer | | Nature Reviews Disease Primers

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is a neoplasm of the renal epithelium and accounts for >90% of kidney cancers. Cancer genomic studies have identified numerous molecular events that lead to RCC and marked intra-tumour heterogeneity, which have prognostic and therapeutic relevance. In this Primer, the authors describe these advances, as well as highlight the considerable advances in the systemic treatment of metastatic RCC.

Primer | | Nature Reviews Disease Primers

Multiple methods exist to induce liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma formation in mice. This Review provides an overview of different mouse models of hepatocellular carcinoma, discussing approaches to help choose an appropriate model and highlighting specific concepts for immunotherapy research.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a novel approach to cancer immunotherapy. However, they are associated with substantial risk of immune-related adverse events, including gastrointestinal toxicity. This Review explores the manifestations of gastrointestinal toxicity with immune checkpoint inhibitor use and insights into its management.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an antigenic lesion infiltrated by T cells, but factors within the tumour and its microenvironment dampen the immune response and prevent effective antitumour immunity. The stepwise elucidation of the various immunosuppressive mechanisms at play in HCC has exposed new therapeutic options. This Review gives a comprehensive overview of the different immunotherapeutic modalities applicable in HCC, including vaccines, adoptive T-cell therapy, cytokines, gene therapy and immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology

Several immune checkpoint inhibitors have been approved for use in metastatic urothelial carcinoma and could be clinically useful alone or in combination. However, they are associated with various immune-related adverse events and specific immune-related patterns of response. In this Review, the authors discuss the data supporting the use of checkpoint inhibition and consider how to optimize therapy to reduce and manage the effects of these therapies.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Urology

Lee and Gujar review the potential of virotherapy to increase the effectiveness of immunotherapies in prostate cancer. They discuss how oncolytic viruses can improve anticancer immunological responses and strategies for combining virotherapy with other immunotherapies to obtain improved patient outcomes.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Urology

This Review provides an overview of the molecular determinants of renal cell carcinoma, how understanding the underlying mechanisms of disease has fuelled the development of targeted therapies, and tools to assess the value of these agents.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Nephrology

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have led to a paradigm shift in cancer therapy; however, these agents can induce immune-related adverse events (irAEs) in off-target organs. This Review describes the mechanism of action of ICI therapies and how these agents induce irAEs in the kidney and heart.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Nephrology

Targeting the immune system in tumour cells has become a central therapy for cancer treatment, but such drugs can lead to adverse effects. In this Review, the authors describe the immune-related endocrinopathies, such as hypophysitis, thyroid dysfunction and the development of diabetes mellitus that can result from cancer immunotherapy.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Endocrinology

Although anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is a rare form of thyroid cancer, the limited efficacy of conventional treatment options and challenges in histological diagnosis make this an almost invariably lethal disease. In this Review, the authors describe the clinical and pathological features of ATC, highlight recent advances in uncovering the genetics and molecular biology of this disease, and discuss both conventional and future treatment modalities.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Endocrinology

Cancer can be successfully treated by blocking inhibitory immune checkpoint receptors, but in some patients these treatments cause immune-related adverse effects that can resemble autoimmune responses. This Review discusses what rheumatologists can learn from these observations and summarizes progress in therapeutically targeting inhibitory receptors in autoimmune diseases.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Rheumatology

Cancer immunotherapies that function as checkpoint inhibitors are an exciting development but are associated with immune-related adverse events that can occur in almost any organ. Among these events are complications that mirror established rheumatic diseases, so oncologists and rheumatologists must work together.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Rheumatology

Activating immune cells to destroy tumours is an effective strategy for treating an advanced lung cancer — but only for some people. Evidence that this approach has potential in early disease and as a combination therapy has now emerged.

News & Views | | Nature

Immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are transforming oncology, but the mounting costs of cancer care necessitate concerns regarding economic sustainability. Here, several strategies that clinicians could use to exercise economically prudent administration of ICIs are discussed. These include better appraisal of the cost-effectiveness literature, judicious patient selection, separating statistical from clinical significance, and careful patient counselling.

Comment | | Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology

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