Immune checkpoint blockade for hematologic malignancies: a review

Matthew J. Pianko, Yuzhou Liu, Srishti Bagchi, Alexander M. Lesokhin


Immune checkpoint blockade has revolutionized the treatment of cancer, with impressive responses seen in a broad variety of tumor types. Blockade of immune checkpoints and immune signaling antibodies has shown promise in multiple types of hematologic malignancies (HMs), with dramatic single agent responses for pembrolizumab and nivolumab in Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). In this review, we outline the current state of immune checkpoint blockade drug development in HMs, and discuss mechanisms of activity and resistance, and highlight potential targets in the immune tumor microenvironment (TME). Blockade of T-cell checkpoint molecules PD-1/PD-L1 and CTLA-4 are the most clinically mature of the immune checkpoint strategies. Novel and upcoming strategies for immune checkpoint blockade drug development in HMs using innovative combinations to modulate immunologic targets shows significant promise as a way to expand the number of patients with blood cancers who could benefit from immunotherapy.