Purpose of review: Recent advances in our understanding of cancer immunology resulted in the development of promising therapeutic agents for either nonantigen-specific immunotherapy, for example, monoclonal antibodies targeting immune checkpoints on the T-cell lymphocyte, and antigen-specific immunotherapy or vaccination. Here, we review the recently reported results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with the latter approach.
Recent findings: Several trials indicated feasibility, safety, and potential for better patient outcomes. In resected early stage non-small-cell lung cancer, a phase II RCT with the MAGE-A3 vaccine showed a trend for improved disease-free interval (hazard ratio 0.75), now further evaluated in the large MAGRIT (MAGE-A3 as Adjuvant NSCLC Immunotherapy Trial) study. In stage III after chemoradiotherapy, the phase III START (Stimulating Targeted Antigenic Responses to NSCLC) trial with L-BLP25 vaccine resulted in a remarkable 10-month improvement in median survival in the concurrent chemoradiotherapy subgroup. In the advanced setting, the phase III study with the allogeneic tumor cell vaccine belagenpumatucel-L did not improve survival in the whole study, but interesting effects were seen in subgroups.
Summary: Recent non-small-cell lung cancer vaccination trials did not meet their primary endpoint, but showed clear patient benefits in subgroup analyses. Confirmatory trials and identifying patients who will benefit using predictive factors, will hopefully bring these approaches in the clinic in the near future.