Immunotherapy and radiation therapy for operable early stage and locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer

Neil K. Taunk, Andreas Rimner, Melissa Culligan, Joseph S. Friedberg, Julie Brahmer, Jamie Chaft


Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common cause of cancer mortality. Although a significant proportion of patients can be cured with surgery, with or without adjuvant or neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radiation, a significant proportion of patients will fail, particularly distantly. Over fifty percent of patients present with stage IV disease. There are multiple forms of immunotherapy available including T-cell transfer, cytokine therapy, and oncolytic viruses. Checkpoint inhibitors have shown tremendous activity in NSCLC and are currently under intense study given promising data on response. Immunotherapy and radiation therapy (RT) both show significant immune editing activity in NSCLC that may allow the innate and adaptive immune system to help control systemic disease by both radiosensitization and a sustained systemic immune response. Multiple clinical trials are underway exploring the role of adjuvant or neoadjuvant immunotherapy in operable NSCLC. A substantial amount of progress is to be made in terms of optimizing radiation dose and fractionation, immunotherapy type and dose, and integrating both to best realize the benefits of immunotherapy and radiation in operable lung cancer.