Immunotherapy in Upper GI Malignancies

Adrian Murphy, Ronan J. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


A comprehensive analysis of the interactions that can occur amongst three complex systems—the tumor cell, tissue microenvironment, and the immune response, is required if we are to realize the potential of immunotherapeutics in gastroesophageal cancer. For many years, epithelial cancers were believed to originate due to the transformation of tissue stem cells. Recently however, it has suggested that bone marrow-derived cells (BMDCs), which are frequently recruited to sites of tissue injury and inflammation, might also represent a potential source of malignancy. The link between infection, chronic inflammation, and cancer has long been recognized in gastric cancer with its close association with Helicobacter pylori as a class I carcinogen. The long-term consequences of recruiting pluripotent cells to areas of chronic inflammation which can result in altered cell signaling and differentiation needs to be defined, but this work provides a fascinating insight into the pivotal role played by the immune system in the development of upper GI tumors. Here, we discuss many of the immunotherapeutic strategies that have been assessed in gastroesophageal cancer in the last two decades. At the time of writing, the use of checkpoint inhibitors represents the most exciting approach and displays the greatest potential for widespread adoption in the clinic. Preliminary data suggest that programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) expression ranges from approximately 18 to 42 % in gastroesophageal cancer. Phase II and phase III clinical trials involving either single agent PD-1/PD-L1 inhibition or combined with CTLA-4 inhibitors are currently enrolling, and it is expected that checkpoint inhibition will become a new standard of care in the management of advanced disease in the near future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent treatment options in oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 10 2015


  • Cancer vaccine
  • Immunochemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Peptide vaccine
  • Pulsed dendritic cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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