Clinical and Translational Oncology

, Volume 21, Issue 8, pp 961–976 | Cite as

The role of immunotherapy in small cell lung cancer

  • A. CallesEmail author
  • G. Aguado
  • C. Sandoval
  • R. Álvarez
Review Article


Despite decades of research, prognosis for SCLC patients remains poor, and treatment options limited. SCLC is an immunogenic tumor with high somatic mutation rates due to tobacco exposure resulting in potential neo-antigens, the presence of suppressed immune responses, and occurrence of paraneoplastic disorders. The use of T cell immune-checkpoint inhibitors (anti-PD1: nivolumab, pembrolizumab; anti-PD-L1: atezolizumab, durvalumab; anti-CTLA-4: ipilimumab, tremelimumab) have shown promising antitumor activity with the potential to prolong survival in SCLC patients. In fact, atezolizumab when combined with chemotherapy has achieved the milestone of being the first drug to improve survival in patients with newly diagnosed extensive-stage SCLC. Other immunotherapeutic approaches evaluated in clinical trials for SCLC include the use of cytokines, cancer vaccines, antiganglioside therapies, TLR9 inhibition, anti-Notch signaling, and anti-CD47. This review discusses the rationale and clinical evidence of immunotherapy in SCLC, the conflictive clinical results of novel immunotherapeutic agents and combinatorial therapies under evaluation in SCLC patients.


Lung cancer Immunotherapy Immune-checkpoint inhibitors Cancer vaccines PD-1 PD-L1 CTLA-4 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

AC has received honorary/consulting fees from AstraZeneca, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Pfizer, Roche/Genentech, Eli Lilly and Company, Novartis, Merck Sharp & Dohme, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. The rest of the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent is not applicable to this article.


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Copyright information

© Federación de Sociedades Españolas de Oncología (FESEO) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Medical Oncology DepartmentHospital General Universitario Gregorio MarañonMadridSpain
  2. 2.Instituto de Investigacion Sanitaria Gregorio MarañonMadridSpain

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