| Home | E-Submission | Sitemap | Contact Us |  
Radiation Oncology Journal > Volume 34(4); 2016 > Article
Koo and Kim: Radiotherapy and immune checkpoint blockades: a snapshot in 2016


Immune checkpoint blockades including monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4), programmed death-1 (PD-1), and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) have been emerged as a promising anticancer therapy. Several immune checkpoint blockades have been approved by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and have shown notable success in clinical trials for patients with advanced melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer. Radiotherapy is a promising combination partner of immune checkpoint blockades due to its potent pro-immune effect. This review will cover the current issue and the future perspectives for combined with radiotherapy and immune checkpoint blockades based upon the available preclinical and clinical data.


Radiotherapy (RT) is a main modality for anticancer treatment. Radiation directly ionizes atoms of the cancer cells and makes excited electrons. These secondary electrons directly damage the DNA of cancer cells. The electrons also make free radicals by interacting with water in the tissue, which can damage the DNA of cancer cells. This is the indirect action of radiation. Incomplete repair of these damaged DNA causes several modes of cell death, such as apoptosis, autophagy, or senescence. Radiosensitivity varies according to cells, tissues, and organs. In particular, lymphocytes show high radiosensitivity even in a low dose, so RT has been used as an immunosuppressive therapy, such as total body irradiation for conditioning prior to bone marrow transplantation. Also, RT can activate immunosuppressive transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) and tumor promoting macrophage [1]. However, RT can induce immunologic cell death providing tumor specific peptides presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and recognized by cytotoxic T cells [2]. Furthermore, RT also can activate APCs possessing anti-tumor immunity [3]. These T cells infiltrate to the tumor site, secrete interferon γ (IFN-γ), and kill tumor cells [4]. Specific combination of signals could be released either, which stimulate tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes even in the distant sites, so-called “abscopal effect.” The systemic effects induced by local RT have been reported in patients with several types of solid tumors, such as melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, and lung adenocarcinoma [5] (Table 1).

Immune Checkpoint Blockades

Immune checkpoint blockades have been showing remarkable progress in the field of immunotherapy, regulating key immunosuppressive pathways of cancer cells. Targets of checkpoint blockades are cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death-1 (PD-1), crucial molecules for peripheral CD8+ T cell tolerance induced by APC. CTLA-4, a trans-membrane protein receptor which expressed in T cells, affects priming phase of immune response. It is transported to the surface when T cell receptor (TCR) recognizes an antigenic peptide in association with MHC of APC. For the complete T cell stimulation, CD28 receptor of T cell and B7 ligand of APC are needed to be bound for a co-stimulatory pathway [6]. CTLA-4 has higher affinity, thus inhibits proliferation of T cells by outcompeting CD28 receptor for ligand binding. CTLA-4 mediated T cell immune tolerance also can be achieved by production of cytokines such as TGF-β in regulatory T cells [7]. Another key inhibitory receptor PD-1 is on surface of T cell and B cell, and binds to programmed death-ligands 1 and 2 (PD-L1 and PD-L2). PD-L1 is widely expressed on hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic cells. The main role of PD-1/PD-L1 system is to limit the response of effecter T cell and the immunemediated damage of tissues. PD-L1 is also expressed on various types of solid tumors and hematologic malignancies. Tumor cells with PD-L1 expression can escape from T cell related immune reaction, and this adaptive resistance is regulated by cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and IFN-γ [8].
In clinical trials using the checkpoint blockades, anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), improved survival outcomes were reported for patients with advanced solid tumors, in particular melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Ipilimumab, an anti-CTLA-4 mAb, was administered for metastatic melanoma. Response rate was 11% to 15.2% and median overall survival (OS) time was 10.1 to 11.2 months. Adverse effect rate was higher, grade 3 to 4 events occurred in 45% to 60% of patients. Of these, immune-related adverse effects were 10% to 41.7%. Common side effects were skin reaction, diarrhea, and increased liver enzyme [9,10]. Interestingly, survival benefit was lasted for long time, a plateau was found after 3-year, and OS rate was 18.2% at 5-year [11]. Anti-PD-1 mAbs (nivolumab and pembrolizumab), comparing with ipilimumab, were reported to prolong survival and response rate, while decrease adverse effect in metastatic melanoma patients [12,13]. In the trial using pembrolizumab (vs. ipilimumab), 1-year OS rate was 68.4%–74.1% (vs. 58.2%), response rate was 32.9%–33.7% (vs. 11.9%), and grade 3 to 5 adverse effect rate was 10.1% to 13.3% (vs. 19.9%) [13].
In the patients with chemo-refractory NSCLC, nivolumab showed better treatment outcomes than docetaxel. Median OS was 9.2–12.2 vs. 6.0–9.4 months and response rate was 19%–20% vs. 9%–12%. Grade 3 to 4 adverse events were less in nivolumab group, 7%–10% vs. 54%–55%. Of these patients having response to nivolumab, response duration time was very long, median time was 17.2 months or unreached [14,15]. Pembrolizumab also compared with docetaxel in PD-L1-positive NSCLC patients who had history of treatment. Median OS was 10.4–12.7 months vs. 8.5 months, and response rate was 18.0%–18.5% vs. 9.3%. Patients with PD-L1 positive in 50% or more tumor cells had more improved outcomes, median OS was 14.9–17.3 months vs. 8.2 months, and response rate was 29.1%–30.2% vs. 7.9%. Grade 3-5 treatment-related toxicity rate was lower with pembrolizumab, 13%–16% vs. 35% [16].
Checkpoint blockades have shown improved treatment outcomes in the clinical trials for advanced melanoma and NSCLC patients with previous systemic treatments. Notably, the response rate of pembrolizumab was not significantly lower even in the patients with ipilimumab history [17,18]. Nonetheless, advanced solid tumors other than melanoma or NSCLC have not been reported to have considerable efficacy or safety of checkpoint blockades [19,20]. Hence, combination strategies are actively discovered to extend the target of checkpoint blockades, using chemotherapy or small molecules. RT is also a promising partner of checkpoint blockades in terms of the immunogenic effect as mentioned above.

RT Combined with Checkpoint Blockades: Preclinical Data

Regulatory T (Treg) cells are more radioresistant than other T cells, consequently increased by RT [21]. Naturally, an important role of Treg cells is to maintain immune tolerance, even in tumorous condition. CTLA-4 is reported to be a key target to control the suppressive function of Treg cell [22]. Thus, the combination of RT and anti-CTLA-4 mAb has been investigated to overcome tumor immunity. Demaria et al. [23] injected poorly immunogenic 4T1 metastatic mouse mammary carcinoma cells into mice, and then performed 2 by 2 arms of treatment: (RT or no-RT) × (CTLA-4 mAb or control immunoglobulin G [IgG]). When RT was combined with anti-CTLA-4 mAb, the survival was significantly extended and lung metastasis was controlled. In this study, CD8+ T cell was shown to have crucial role, while CD4+ T cell did not. Antitumor immunity was also confirmed in other types of cell lines, such as mesothelioma [24] and glioma [25].
Though the combination of RT and anti-CTLA-4 mAb has been reported to have improved response, the unresponders are more common than the responders. In this point of view, the importance of PD-L1/PD-1 co-inhibitory pathway has been noted, which modulate microenvironment to facilitate activation of CD8+ T cells [26]. Twyman-Saint Victor et al. [27] obtained resistant murine melanoma cells from mice with relapsed tumor after the combination of RT and anti-CTLA4 mAb. The authors found that the resistance was associated with the exhaustion of CD8+ T cell and the upregulation of PD-L1 by cancer cells. After the addition of anti-PD-L1 mAb, exhausted CD8+ T cell was reversed and the response was improved. In addition to effector T cells, down-regulation of tumor-infiltrating myeloid-derived suppressor cells by TNF-α was reported to be associated with antitumor immunity [28], and blocking of TGF-β might be a another strategy [29]. Thus, murine melanoma cell line was a preceding model to confirm the effect of the combination of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 mAb and RT [30]. Actually, improved anti-tumor immunity has been revealed in breast [28], colon [31], and renal cell carcinoma [32].
Furthermore, impressive feature of immunotherapy, immune memory was confirmed. Zeng et al. [33] selected “cured mice,” which survived more than 90 days after the combined treatment of RT and anti-PD-1 mAb for murine glioma, and injected same cell line. At the same time, naive mice were injected with same cell line. All of naive mice had >1 cm3 tumors after 21 days of implantation, while none of cured mice had tumors after 60 days of implantation. Enhanced abscopal effect was also been reported in other study, combined treatment of RT and anti-PD-1 mAb significantly inhibited the growth of secondary unirradiated tumors, comparing with single treatment of RT or anti-PD-1 mAb [32] (Table 1).

RT Combined with Checkpoint Blockades: Clinical Data

At this time, a limited number of clinical trials reported results of combined RT and checkpoint blockades, moreover, most of them used anti-CTLA-4 mAb. A phase I/II study for patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer evaluated safety and efficacy of ipilimumab, an anti-CTLA-4 mAb with or without radiotherapy. RT was delivered to metastatic bone lesion with 8 Gy single fraction 1 to 2 days before the first ipilimumab. The dose of ipilimumab was escalated as 3, 5 or 10 mg/kg without RT, or 3 or 10 mg/kg with RT. Response was assessed after up to 4 cycles (3 weeks per cycle). Among 34 patients with 10 mg/kg ipilimumab and RT, grade 3 to 4 immune-related adverse effects occurred in 18% of patients (colitis, 6%; hepatitis, 6%; and diarrhea, 6%), and ≥50% prostate-specific antigen (PSA) decline was confirmed in 12% of patients [34]. In a phase III trial, ipilimumab was compared with placebo for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer patients. Single fraction RT (8 Gy) was given for metastatic bone lesion within the 2 days before the medication. Ipilimumab (10 mg/kg) or placebo was administered every 3 weeks for up to 4 cycles, and continued every 3 months until disease progression or severe toxicity. A total of 799 patients were randomly assigned to ipilimumab (n = 399) and placebo (n = 400) groups. Though OS for the entire patients was not increased with ipilimumab (11.2 vs. 10.0 months, p = 0.053), progression-free survival (4.0 vs. 3.1 months, p < 0.0001) and ≥50% PSA decline (13.1% vs. 5.2%) was improved. Grade 3 to 4 immune related adverse effects were noted in 26% of ipilimumab group and 3% of placebo group, and common immune related events were diarrhea (15% vs. <1%) and colitis (5% vs. 0%). Four patients (1%) in ipilimumab group had ipilimumab-related death [35]. These two clinical trials reported similar rate of severe immune-related toxicity comparing with aforementioned phase III immunotherapy trials without RT, hence we can expect the combination of RT and checkpoint blockades could be a useful treatment modality. More data can be found in retrospective studies, and they may give us additional clue to identify the benefit of the combination.
In the real world, immunotherapy is usually tried for patients with systemic metastasis, thus RT may be particularly used as palliative intent. As expected, palliative RT (median dose of 30 Gy) combined with ipilimumab (median dose of 10 mg/kg) was reported to have appropriate palliative effect without significant increase of immune-related adverse effects [36]. If the abscopal effect is confirmed in clinical data, the combination of RT and immunotherapy can be more useful. Several case reports have observed the abscopal effect of local RT. A metastatic melanoma patient who had showed stable disease with ipilimumab received palliative RT (28.5 Gy in 3 fractions) when the disease progressed. Shortly after RT, there was not a response. However, a significant regression was observed in both of irradiated lesion and distant non-irradiated lesions after an additional dose of ipilimumab [37]. In another case report, a patient with metastatic lung adenocarcinoma underwent palliative RT (30 Gy in 5 fractions) concomitantly with ipilimumab. After the concomitant treatment, significant reduction of tumor size and metabolic uptake was detected in whole body, furthermore, the carcinoembryonic antigen level was normalized either [38].
Brain metastasis can be a typical model of combined treatment of RT and immunotherapy, since complete resection is difficult and systemic agents hardly penetrate the blood–brain barrier. Survival benefit of the combination of brain RT and ipilimumab was reported in a study for brain metastatic melanoma patients, the combined treatment showed better OS (median, 21.3 vs. 4.9 months; p = 0.044) than radiosurgery alone [39]. The abscopal effect observed either. A retrospective study reported treatment results of 13 patients with brain metastatic melanoma who treated with ipilimumab (3 mg/kg) and whole-brain RT (WBRT; median 30 Gy in 10 fractions) within 30 days of one another. Extracranial response rate was evaluated in 10 patients, and the response rate was 20% (complete response 1, partial response 1, and stable disease 2). The rate of grade 3 to 4 central nervous system-related acute toxicity was low, reported in only 1 patient. Notably, all patients who had post-WBRT imaging had new or worsened intratumoral hemorrhage (median, 53 days) [40]. However, the influence of RT or ipilimumab on hemorrhage should be cautiously considered, because intratumoral hemorrhage is commonly occurred in melanoma metastases. Actually, in another study for brain metastatic melanoma patients, more intratumoral hemorrhage was occurred in brain RT alone group than brain RT and ipilimumab group (12.5% vs. 3.9%) [41].
In summary, clinical data for the combination of RT and checkpoint blockades are still scanty and concentrated on a certain agent, ipilimumab. Nonetheless, based on the results of several retrospective studies, we can expect that the combined treatment may be synergistic without significant increase of immune-related adverse effects.

How to Combine RT with Checkpoint Blockades?

Several technical issues should be considered for combination of immune checkpoint and RT, such as fractionation schedule and sequence of RT. We should look back on preclinical data to find appropriate fraction size. In a mouse model using B16 melanoma cells, 20 Gy was delivered in 1 fraction or 5 fractions. Increased reduction of primary tumor or distant metastasis was reported in single fractionation group rather than fractionation group. This ablative RT-initiated immunity was CD8+ T-cell dependent [42]. In other study using a fractionated schedule of RT (2 Gy × 5), upregulation of PD-L1 was observed in murine colon carcinoma cells of mice [43]. This is the adaptive immune-evading mechanism of tumor cells, depending on IFN-γ produced by CD8 T cell. In contrast, single fraction RT with higher dose (10 Gy) decreased the expression of PD-L1 in human prostate cancer cell lines in vitro [44].
Based on these results, ablative RT with single fraction might be suggested to initiate immunologic response better than fractionated RT. However, 2 to 5 Gy per fraction which used in aforementioned studies is a relatively conventional schedule. Fractionated RT with conventional low daily dose may be less immunologic, at least in the setting of metastatic disease. Silk et al. [41] reported that survival benefit of ipilimumab was confirmed in radiosurgery group (19.9 vs. 4.0 months; p = 0.009), while not in WBRT (3.1 vs. 5.3 months; p = 0.60). In this study, RT dose was 30–37.5 Gy in 10–13 fractions and 14–24 Gy in 1–5 fractions for radiosurgery. Therefore, fractionated RT with higher daily dose should be compared with single fraction RT. Actually, Dewan et al. [45] injected TSA mouse breast carcinoma or MCA38 mouse colon carcinoma cells into the both flanks of mouse. RT was given to “primary site” as 20 Gy in single fraction, 8 Gy in 3 fractions, and 6 Gy in 5 fractions. 9H10 monoclonal antibody against CTLA-4 was combination with RT or not. Interestingly, the RT regimen with 8 Gy × 3 fractions showed most enhanced response regardless of tumor sites.
Regarding the sequence of RT and immunotherapy, it is another uncertainty. In one study for brain metastatic melanoma, response rate was 40% in RT after ipilimumab and 16.7% in RT before ipilimumab [41]. On the contrary, in other study for melanoma brain metastases, patients underwent radiosurgery during or before ipilimumab had better OS than those underwent radiosurgery after ipilimumab (at 1 year, 65% vs. 56% vs. 40%, p = 0.008). However, patients underwent radiosurgery during ipilimumab showed more frequent central nervous system toxicities, for example, hemorrhage was found in 40%, compared with 18% in patients underwent radiosurgery before or after ipilimumab [46]. However, small number of patients and retrospective nature is the limitations of these studies to clarify the optimal sequence of RT and immunotherapy.

Ongoing Trials and Future Perspectives

Major issues for the combined treatment of RT and checkpoint blockades can be summarized as follows. Above all, more types of cancer, beyond melanoma and NSCLC, must be considered as the indication of combined treatment. Especially, several cancers with poor prognosis or limited applicable systemic agents, such as pancreas and triple negative breast cancers, were reported to be possibly immunogenic [47,48], so multiple studies have been conducted for varied types of cancer (Table 2). Additionally, anti-PD-1/L1 mAb, besides anti-CTLA-4 mAb, should be verified to have synergistic effect by the combined RT and immunotherapy. Most of preclinical and clinical studies used anti-CTLA-4 mAb, especially ipilimumab, being developed earlier than other agents. Tumor tissue studies in patients receiving neoadjuvant chemo-radiotherapy reported that PD-L1 expression was increased in tumor cells, but its influence on prognosis is very conflicting [49,50]. Lastly, optimal combination schedule of RT and checkpoint blockades also has to be clarified, including fractionation schedule and sequence of RT and checkpoint blockades. Although RT with higher daily dose appears more immunogenic than RT with conventional daily dose in several preclinical or retrospective studies, we should take into account that the studies used RT in a palliative setting. For curative intent, conventionally fractionated (around 2 Gy per day) RT is still the mainstay, concerning possible normal tissue toxicity owing to usually combined systemic agents. Consequently, conventionally fractionated RT should be investigated in clinical trials whether has synergistic immunogenic effect, as well as the sequence of RT and immune checkpoint blockade. Selected ongoing trials are summarized in Table 2.


Immune checkpoint blockades have been emerged as promising anticancer therapy, showing enormous progression on clinical application. Pro-immune effect of RT is expected to boost efficacy of checkpoint blockades without significant increase of immune-related adverse event. Although the evidence of combined treatment is not sufficient yet, preclinical data suggest a potential benefit of combined RT and checkpoint blockades. Based on ongoing clinical trials, the latitude for clinical application of RT would be extended, from palliation to radical treatment modality, in the field of immunotherapy.


Conflict of Interest

No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.


This work was supported by the grant (No. 0820010) for Cancer Control Program from the Korea Ministry of Health & Welfare to In Ah Kim.

Table 1.
Checkpoint blockades and effect of radiotherapy
Ligands on tumor cell Receptors on T cell Ligands on antigen-presenting cell Checkpoint blockade
PD-L1 and L2 PD-1 - Anti-PD-1/L1 (atezolizumab, nivolumab, pembrolizumab)
CTLA-4 B7 (CD80, CD86) Anti-CTLA-4 (ipilimumab)
Effect of radiotherapy To increase antigen presentation and CD8+ T cell infiltration
To stimulate tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes in the distant sites: abscopal effect

PD-L1 and L2, programmed death-ligand 1 and ligand 2; PD-1, programmed death-1; CTLA-4, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte–associated protein 4.

Table 2.
Selected ongoing trials
Trial no. Phase n Condition Intervention Sequence Radiotherapy schedule Institute
NCT02406183 I 21 Metastatic melanoma Ipilimumab + SBRT Ipilimumab → RT (at day 39, 41, 43) SBRT 24, 30 or 36 Gy in 3 fractions Radiotherapie, University Hospital Ghent
NCT02821182 II 40 Metastatic melanoma Anti-PD-1 + SBRT Concomitant 24 Gy in 3 fractions (separated 2-3 days) University Hospital Ghent
NCT02115139 II 66 Melanoma and brain metastases Ipilimumab + WBRT Ipilimumab → WBRT (between cycle 1 day 2 and cycle 2 day 1) 30 Gy in 10 fractions Grupo Espanol Multidis-ciplinar de Melanoma
NCT02407171 I/II 60 Metastatic melanoma or non-small cell lung cancer MK-3475 + SBRT Concomitant 30 Gy in 3 or 5 fractions Yale University
NCT02866747 I/II 62 Recurrent glioblastoma HFRT
Durvalumab + HFRT
RT → durvalumab (on day 5 of RT) 24 Gy in 3 fractions (days 1, 3, and 5) Institut Claudius Regaud
NCT02617589 III 550 Glioblastoma Nivolumab + RT
Temozolomide + RT
Bristol-Myers Squibb
NCT01935921 I 18 Stage lll-IVB head and neck cancer Cetuximab + RT + ipilimumab Cetuximab + RT → Ipilimumab (at week 4) 66-70 Gy for 7 weeks National Cancer Institute
NCT02764593 I 120 Advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma Nivolumab + cisplatin
Nivolumab + cetuximab
Nivolumab + RT
Nivolumab → (after 14 days) RT 70 Gy in 35 fractions RTOG
NCT02759575 l/ll 47 Locally advanced laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma Pembrolizumab + cisplatin + RT Concomitant 70 Gy in 35 fractions Nooshin Hashemi-Sa-draei
NCT02609503 II 29 Locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck Pembrolizumab + IMRT Concomitant 7 weeks UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
NCT02777385 II 44 Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma Pembrolizumab + cisplatin + IMRT CCRT → (3 weeks after) pembrolizumab
Pembrolizumab → (1 week after) CCRT
35 fractions University of Pittsburgh
NCT02289209 II 48 Inoperable recurrence or second primary squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck Reirradiation + MK-3475 Concomitant 1.2 Gy BID for 5 days weekly Dan Zandberg, University of Maryland
NCT02642809 0 15 Metastatic esophageal cancers Brachytherapy + pembrolizumab Brachytherapy → pembrolizumab (within 1 week) 16 Gy in 2 fractions Washington University School of Medicine
NCT02844075 II 28 Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma Neoadjuvant CCRT with taxol, carboplatin, and pembrolizumab Concomitant 44.1 Gy in 21 fractions Yonsei University
NCT02621398 30 Stage ll-IIIB non-small cell lung cancer Paclitaxel + carboplatin + RT + pembrolizumab Concomitant 5 Days a week for 6 weeks Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
NCT02221739 II 39 Metastatic non-small cell lung cancer Ipilimumab + local RT RT → ipilimumab (within 24 hours) 6 Gy x 5 fractions 9.5 Gy x 3 fractions New York University School of Medicine
NCT02525757 II 40 Non-small cell lung cancer CCRT with carboplatin and paclitaxel + MPDL3280A Concomitant MPDL3280A → CCRT 60-66 Gy in 30-33 fractions MD Anderson Cancer Center
NCT02888743 II 180 Metastatic colorectal or non-small cell lung cancer Tremelimumab + durvalumab
Tremelimumab + durvalumab + high dose RT
Tremelimumab + durvalumab + low dose RT
Immunotherapy → RT (at week 2) Arm B:over 10 days for up to 3 fractions Arm C: every 6 hours BID on weeks 2, 6, 10 and 14 National Cancer Institute
NCT02768558 III 660 Stage III unresectable non-small cell lung cancer RT + cisplatin + etoposide +/-nivolumab CCRT → nivolumab 60 Gy RTOG
NCT02303366 I 15 Oligometastatie breast cancer MK-3475 + SBRT SBRT → MK-3475 20 Gy in 1 fraction Peter MaeCallum Cancer Centre
NCT02730130 II 17 Metastatic triple negative breast cancer Pembrolizumab + RT RT → pembrolizumab (at day 2) 30 Gy in 5 fractions Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
NCT01853618 I 100 Liver cancer TACE or REA once only
Repeat TACE
Tremelimumab + SBRT
Tremelimumab + cryoablation
Tremelimumab + RFA
Tremelimumab → SBRT (at day 36) 1 fraction National Cancer Institute
NCT02837263 I 15 Liver metastatic colorectal cancer SBRT + pembrolizumab SBRT → pembrolizumab 40-60 Gy in 5 fractions University of Wisconsin, Madison
NCT02298946 I 17 Metastatic colorectal cancer Cyclophosphamide + SBRT + AMP-224 SBRT (days -2, -1, 0 or day 0) → medication 8 Gy x 1 or 3 fractions National Cancer Institute
NCT02948348 l/ll 50 Rectal cancer Preoperative CCRT with capecitabine + nivolumab Concomitant 45 Gy in 25 fractions Takayuki Yoshino, National Cancer Center Hospital East
NCT02868632 I 36 Unresectable, non-met-astatic pancreatic cancer MEDI4736+ SBRT
Tremelimumab + SBRT
MEDI4736 + tremelimumab + SBRT
SBRT → immunotherapy (within 4 hours) 6 Gy x 5 fractions New York University School of Medicine
NCT02311361 I 60 Unresectable pancreatic cancer MEDI4736 + SBRT
Tremelimumab + SBRT
MEDI4736 + tremelimumab + SBRT
National Cancer Institute
NCT02648282 II 54 Locally advanced pancreatic cancer Cyclophosphamide + pembrolizumab + GVAX + SBRT Immunotherapy → SBRT (at second dose) 6.6 Gy for 5 days (at 2nd cycle) Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
NCT02855203 I/II 30 Oligometastatic renal tumors Pembrolizumab + SBRT SBRT → pembrolizumab 18-20 Gy x 1 fraction Peter MaeCallum Cancer Centre, Australia
NCT02599779 II 35 Stage IV renal cell cancer Pembrolizumab + SBRT Pembrolizumab → SBRT Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
NCT02880345 - 14 Advanced urothelial cancer Pembrolizumab + HFRT or SBRT 8 Gy x 3 fractions 17 Gy x 1 fraction Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
NCT02891161 l/ll 42 Urothelial cancer (T2-4 NO-2 MO) of the bladder Durvalumab + RT Concomitant 64.8 Gy in 36 fractions Monika Joshi, Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium
NCT02843165 II 146 Metastatic cancer Anti-CTLA-4 or anti-PD-1/LI mAb +/-SBRT Concomitant 9.5 Gy x 3 fractions (1-21 days) University of California, San Diego
NCT01711515 I 28 Locally advanced cervical cancer Cisplatin + EBRT and brachytherapy + ipilimumab Cisplatin + RT → ipilimumab (within 2 weeks) National Cancer Institute

Anti-CTLA-4 (ipilimumab, tremelimumab); Anti-PD-1/L1 (AMP-224, durvalumab, MEDI4736, MPDL3280A, MK-3475, nivolumab, pembrolizumab).

SBRT, stereotactic body radiotherapy; RT, radiotherapy; WBRT, whole brain radiotherapy; HFRT, hypofractionated radiotherapy; RTOG, Radiation Therapy Oncology Group; IMRT, intensity modulated radiotherapy; CCRT, concurrent chemo-radiotherapy; TACE, transcatheter arterial chemoembolization; RFA, radiofrequency ablation ; mAbs, monoclonal antibodies; EBRT, external beam radiation therapy.


1. Formenti SC, Demaria S. Combining radiotherapy and cancer immunotherapy: a paradigm shift. J Natl Cancer Inst 2013;105:256–65.
crossref pmid pmc
2. Reits EA, Hodge JW, Herberts CA, et al. Radiation modulates the peptide repertoire, enhances MHC class I expression, and induces successful antitumor immunotherapy. J Exp Med 2006;203:1259–71.
crossref pmid pmc
3. Gupta A, Probst HC, Vuong V, et al. Radiotherapy promotes tumor-specific effector CD8+ T cells via dendritic cell activation. J Immunol 2012;189:558–66.
crossref pmid
4. Lugade AA Moran JP, Gerber SA, Rose RC, Frelinger JG, Lord EM. Local radiation therapy of B16 melanoma tumors increases the generation of tumor antigen-specific effector cells that traffic to the tumor. J Immunol 2005;174:7516–23.
crossref pmid
5. Siva S, MacManus MP, Martin RF, Martin OA. Abscopal effects of radiation therapy: a clinical review for the radiobiologist. Cancer Lett 2015;356:82–90.
crossref pmid
6. Lenschow DJ, Walunas TL, Bluestone JA. CD28/B7 system of T cell costimulation. Annu Rev Immunol 1996;14:233–58.
crossref pmid
7. Sansom DM. CD28, CTLA-4 and their ligands: who does what and to whom? Immunology 2000;101:169–77.
crossref pmid pmc
8. Keir ME, Butte MJ, Freeman GJ, Sharpe AH. PD-1 and its ligands in tolerance and immunity. Annu Rev Immunol 2008;26:677–704.
crossref pmid pmc
9. Hodi FS, O’Day SJ, McDermott DF, et al. Improved survival with ipilimumab in patients with metastatic melanoma. N Engl J Med 2010;363:711–23.
crossref pmid pmc
10. Robert C, Thomas L, Bondarenko I, et al. Ipilimumab plus dacarbazine for previously untreated metastatic melanoma. N Engl J Med 2011;364:2517–26.
crossref pmid
11. Maio M, Grob JJ, Aamdal S, et al. Five-year survival rates for treatment-naive patients with advanced melanoma who received ipilimumab plus dacarbazine in a phase III trial. J Clin Oncol 2015;33:1191–6.
crossref pmid pmc
12. Larkin J, Chiarion-Sileni V, Gonzalez R, et al. Combined nivolumab and ipilimumab or monotherapy in untreated melanoma. N Engl J Med 2015;373:23–34.
crossref pmid pmc
13. Robert C, Schachter J, Long GV, et al. Pembrolizumab versus ipilimumab in advanced melanoma. N Engl J Med 2015;372:2521–32.
crossref pmid
14. Brahmer J, Reckamp KL, Baas P, et al. Nivolumab versus docetaxel in advanced squamous-cell non-small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 2015;373:123–35.
crossref pmid pmc
15. Borghaei H, Paz-Ares L, Horn L, et al. Nivolumab versus docetaxel in advanced nonsquamous non-small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 2015;373:1627–39.
crossref pmid pmc
16. Herbst RS, Baas P, Kim DW, et al. Pembrolizumab versus docetaxel for previously treated, PD-L1-positive, advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (KEYNOTE-010): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2016;387:1540–50.
crossref pmid
17. Ribas A, Hamid O, Daud A, et al. Association of pembrolizumab with tumor response and survival among patients with advanced melanoma. JAMA 2016;315:1600–9.
crossref pmid
18. Ribas A, Puzanov I, Dummer R, et al. Pembrolizumab versus investigator-choice chemotherapy for ipilimumab-refractory melanoma (KEYNOTE-002): a randomised, controlled, phase 2 trial. Lancet Oncol 2015;16:908–18.
crossref pmid pmc
19. Patnaik A, Kang SP, Rasco D, et al. Phase I study of pembrolizumab (MK-3475; Anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody) in patients with advanced solid tumors. Clin Cancer Res 2015;21:4286–93.
crossref pmid
20. Royal RE, Levy C, Turner K, et al. Phase 2 trial of single agent Ipilimumab (anti-CTLA-4) for locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma. J Immunother 2010;33:828–33.
crossref pmid pmc
21. Kachikwu EL, Iwamoto KS, Liao YP, et al. Radiation enhances regulatory T cell representation. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2011;81:1128–35.
crossref pmid pmc
22. Wing K, Onishi Y, Prieto-Martin P, et al. CTLA-4 control over Foxp3+ regulatory T cell function. Science 2008;322:271–5.
crossref pmid
23. Demaria S, Kawashima N, Yang AM, et al. Immune-mediated inhibition of metastases after treatment with local radiation and CTLA-4 blockade in a mouse model of breast cancer. Clin Cancer Res 2005;11(2 Pt 1):728–34.
crossref pmid pdf
24. Wu L, Wu MO, De la Maza L, et al. Targeting the inhibitory receptor CTLA-4 on T cells increased abscopal effects in murine mesothelioma model. Oncotarget 2015;6:12468–80.
crossref pmid pmc
25. Yoshimoto Y, Suzuki Y, Mimura K, et al. Radiotherapy-induced anti-tumor immunity contributes to the therapeutic efficacy of irradiation and can be augmented by CTLA-4 blockade in a mouse model. PLoS One 2014;9:e92572.
crossref pmid pmc
26. Liang H, Deng L, Chmura S, et al. Radiation-induced equilibrium is a balance between tumor cell proliferation and T cell-mediated killing. J Immunol 2013;190:5874–81.
crossref pmid pmc
27. Twyman-Saint Victor C, Rech AJ, Maity A, et al. Radiation and dual checkpoint blockade activate non-redundant immune mechanisms in cancer. Nature 2015;520:373–7.
crossref pmid pmc
28. Deng L, Liang H, Burnette B, et al. Irradiation and anti-PD-L1 treatment synergistically promote antitumor immunity in mice. J Clin Invest 2014;124:687–95.
crossref pmid pmc
29. Vanpouille-Box C, Diamond JM, Pilones KA, et al. TGF β is a master regulator of radiation therapy-induced antitumor immunity. Cancer Res 2015;75:2232–42.
crossref pmid pmc
30. Pilon-Thomas S, Mackay A, Vohra N, Mule JJ. Blockade of programmed death ligand 1 enhances the therapeutic efficacy of combination immunotherapy against melanoma. J Immunol 2010;184:3442–9.
crossref pmid pmc
31. Sharabi AB, Nirschl CJ, Kochel CM, et al. Stereotactic radiation therapy augments antigen-specific PD-1-mediated antitumor immune responses via cross-presentation of tumor antigen. Cancer Immunol Res 2015;3:345–55.
crossref pmid pmc
32. Park SS, Dong H, Liu X, et al. PD-1 restrains radiotherapy-induced abscopal effect. Cancer Immunol Res 2015;3:610–9.
crossref pmid pmc
33. Zeng J, See AP, Phallen J, et al. Anti-PD-1 blockade and stereotactic radiation produce long-term survival in mice with intracranial gliomas. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2013;86:343–9.
crossref pmid pmc
34. Slovin SF, Higano CS, Hamid O, et al. Ipilimumab alone or in combination with radiotherapy in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer: results from an open-label, multicenter phase I/II study. Ann Oncol. 2013;24:1813–21.
crossref pmid pmc
35. Kwon ED, Drake CG, Scher HI, et al. Ipilimumab versus placebo after radiotherapy in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer that had progressed after docetaxel chemotherapy (CA184-043): a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, phase 3 trial. Lancet Oncol 2014;15:700–12.
crossref pmid pmc
36. Barker CA, Postow MA, Khan SA, et al. Concurrent radiotherapy and ipilimumab immunotherapy for patients with melanoma. Cancer Immunol Res 2013;1:92–8.
crossref pmid pmc
37. Postow MA, Callahan MK, Barker CA, et al. Immunologic correlates of the abscopal effect in a patient with melanoma. N Engl J Med 2012;366:925–31.
crossref pmid pmc
38. Golden EB, Demaria S, Schiff PB, Chachoua A, Formenti SC. An abscopal response to radiation and ipilimumab in a patient with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. Cancer Immunol Res 2013;1:365–72.
crossref pmid pmc
39. Knisely JP, Yu JB, Flanigan J, Sznol M, Kluger HM, Chiang VL. Radiosurgery for melanoma brain metastases in the ipilimumab era and the possibility of longer survival. J Neurosurg 2012;117:227–33.
crossref pmid pmc
40. Gerber NK, Young RJ, Barker CA, et al. Ipilimumab and whole brain radiation therapy for melanoma brain metastases. J Neurooncol 2015;121:159–65.
crossref pmid pmc
41. Silk AW, Bassetti MF, West BT, Tsien CI, Lao CD. Ipilimumab and radiation therapy for melanoma brain metastases. Cancer Med 2013;2:899–906.
crossref pmid pmc
42. Lee Y, Auh SL, Wang Y, et al. Therapeutic effects of ablative radiation on local tumor require CD8+ T cells: changing strategies for cancer treatment. Blood 2009;114:589–95.
crossref pmid pmc
43. Dovedi SJ, Adlard AL, Lipowska-Bhalla G, et al. Acquired resistance to fractionated radiotherapy can be overcome by concurrent PD-L1 blockade. Cancer Res 2014;74:5458–68.
crossref pmid
44. Bernstein MB, Garnett CT, Zhang H, et al. Radiation-induced modulation of costimulatory and coinhibitory T-cell signaling molecules on human prostate carcinoma cells promotes productive antitumor immune interactions. Cancer Biother Radiopharm 2014;29:153–61.
crossref pmid pmc
45. Dewan MZ, Galloway AE, Kawashima N, et al. Fractionated but not single-dose radiotherapy induces an immune-mediated abscopal effect when combined with anti-CTLA-4 antibody. Clin Cancer Res 2009;15:5379–88.
crossref pmid pmc
46. Kiess AP, Wolchok JD, Barker CA, et al. Stereotactic radiosurgery for melanoma brain metastases in patients receiving ipilimumab: safety profile and efficacy of combined treatment. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2015;92:368–75.
crossref pmid pmc
47. Lutz ER, Wu AA, Bigelow E, et al. Immunotherapy converts nonimmunogenic pancreatic tumors into immunogenic foci of immune regulation. Cancer Immunol Res 2014;2:616–31.
crossref pmid pmc
48. Stagg J, Allard B. Immunotherapeutic approaches in triple-negative breast cancer: latest research and clinical prospects. Ther Adv Med Oncol 2013;5:169–81.
crossref pmid pmc
49. Lim SH, Hong M, Ahn S, et al. Changes in tumour expression of programmed death-ligand 1 after neoadjuvant concurrent chemoradiotherapy in patients with squamous oesophageal cancer. Eur J Cancer 2016;52:1–9.
crossref pmid
50. Hecht M, Buttner-Herold M, Erlenbach-Wunsch K, et al. PD-L1 is upregulated by radiochemotherapy in rectal adenocarcinoma patients and associated with a favourable prognosis. Eur J Cancer 2016;65:52–60.
crossref pmid
PDF Links  PDF Links
PubReader  PubReader
ePub Link  ePub Link
XML Download  XML Download
Full text via DOI  Full text via DOI
Download Citation  Download Citation
Web of Science
Related article
Editorial Office
Department of Radiation Oncology, Samsung Medical Center,
Proton Therapy Center, B2, 81, Irwon-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 06351, Republic of Korea
Tel : +82-2-3410-3617
E-mail: rojeditor@gmail.com, roj@kosro.or.kr
Copyright © The Korean Society for Radiation Oncology.                      Developed in M2PI
Close layer
prev next