Choosing wisely first line immunotherapy in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): what to add and what to leave out

C. Proto, R. Ferrara, D. Signorelli, G. Lo Russo, G. Galli, M. Imbimbo, A. Prelaj, N. Zilembo, M. Ganzinelli, L. M. Pallavicini, I. De Simone, M. P. Colombo, A. Sica, V. Torri, M. C. Garassino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immunotherapy has dramatically changed the therapeutic scenario in treatment naïve advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). While single agent pembrolizumab has become the standard therapy in patients with PD-L1 expression on tumor cells ≥ 50%, the combination of pembrolizumab or atezolizumab and platinum-based chemotherapy has emerged as an effective first line treatment regardless of PD-L1 expression both in squamous and non-squamous NSCLC without oncogenic drivers. Furthermore, double immune checkpoint inhibition has shown promising results in treatment naïve patients with high tumor mutational burden (TMB). Of note, the presence of both negative PD-L1 expression and low TMB may identify a subgroup of patients who has little benefit from immunotherapy combinations and for whom the best treatment option may still be platinum-based chemotherapy. To date, first-line single agent immune checkpoint blockade has demonstrated limited activity in EGFR mutated NSCLC and the combination of immunotherapy and targeted agents has raised safety concerns in both EGFR and ALK positive NSCLC patients. Finally, in EGFR mutated or ALK rearranged NSCLC, atezolizumab in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy and bevacizumab is emerging as a potential treatment option upon progression to first line tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-51
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Treatment Reviews
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Chemotherapy
  • First line treatment
  • Immunotherapy


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