Precision immuno-oncology: Prospects of individualized immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer

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Pancreatic cancer, most commonly referring to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), remains one of the most deadly diseases, with very few effective therapies available. Emerging as a new modality of modern cancer treatments, immunotherapy has shown promises for various cancer types. Over the past decades, the potential of immunotherapy in eliciting clinical benefits in pancreatic cancer have also been extensively explored. It has been demonstrated in preclinical studies and early phase clinical trials that cancer vaccines were effective in eliciting anti-tumor immune response, but few have led to a significant improvement in survival. Despite the fact that immunotherapy with checkpoint blockade (e.g., anti-cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 [CTLA-4] and anti-programmed cell death 1 [PD-1]/PD-L1 antibodies) has shown remarkable and durable responses in various cancer types, the application of checkpoint inhibitors in pancreatic cancer has been disappointing so far. It may, in part, due to the unique tumor microenvironment (TME) of pancreatic cancer, such as existence of excessive stromal matrix and hypovascularity, creating a TME of strong inhibitory signaling circuits and tremendous physical barriers for immune agent infiltration. This informs on the need for combination therapy approaches to engender a potent immune response that can translate to clinical benefits. On the other hand, lack of effective and validated biomarkers to stratify subgroup of patients who can benefit from immunotherapy poses further challenges for the realization of precision immune-oncology. Future studies addressing issues such as TME modulation, biomarker identification and therapeutic combination are warranted. In this review, advances in immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer were discussed and opportunities as well as challenges for personalized immune-oncology were addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number39
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Immune checkpoint
  • Immunotherapy
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
  • Precision medicine
  • Tumor microenvironment
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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