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Curr Opin Oncol. 2019 Jan;31(1):13-17. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0000000000000497.

Immunotherapy in patients with early stage resectable nonsmall cell lung cancer.

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Respiratory Oncology Unit, Department of Respiratory Medicine, University Hospitals KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.



'Early-stage' nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC) refers to stage I and stage II disease, and selected cases of stage IIIA disease where complete tumor resection is feasible. Surgery is the standard treatment for early NSCLC, but the overall 5-year survival remains below 50%. The addition of adjuvant cisplatin-based chemotherapy to surgery improved 5-year survival rates by 5-10%, but no significant therapeutic innovation has been established thereafter. We review recent and ongoing studies looking how immunotherapy may improve the outcome of these patients.


Antigen-specific immunotherapy (cancer vaccination) did not fulfill its promise in a large phase III randomized trial in completely resected early-stage NSCLC. Over the past few years, immunotherapy with immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI) has led to remarkable progress in nononcogene addicted metastatic NSCLC. We review ongoing clinical investigations that want to translate these benefits to earlier stages of NSCLC. Both adjuvant and neoadjuvant large randomized controlled trials with ICI are ongoing.


Although from a mechanistic perspective the neoadjuvant administration may be preferred, it is crucial that both adjuvant and neoadjuvant trials are recruited as planned, to have a balanced view how ICI therapy may ultimately improve cure rates in these patients.

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