Hyperthermia combined with immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy: Synergistic sensitization and clinical outcomes

Background: Within the field of oncotherapy, research interest regarding immunotherapy has risen to the point that it is now seen as a key application. However, inherent disadvantages of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), such as their low response rates and immune-related adverse events (irAEs), currently restrict their clinical application. Were these disadvantages to be overcome, more patients could derive prolonged benefits from ICIs. At present, many basic experiments and clinical studies using hyperthermia combined with ICI treatment (HIT) have been performed and shown the potential to address the above challenges. Therefore, this review extensively summarizes the knowledge and progress of HIT for analysis and discusses the effect and feasibility.

Methods: In this review, we explored the PubMed and clinicaltrials.gov databases, with regard to the searching terms "immune checkpoint inhibitor, immunotherapy, hyperthermia, ablation, photothermal therapy".

Results: By reviewing the literature, we analyzed how hyperthermia influences tumor immunology and improves the efficacy of ICI. Hyperthermia can trigger a series of multifactorial molecular cascade reactions between tumors and immunization and can significantly induce cytological modifications within the tumor microenvironment (TME). The pharmacological potency of ICIs can be enhanced greatly through the immunomodulatory amelioration of immunosuppression, and the activation of immunostimulation. Emerging clinical trials outcome regarding HIT have verified and enriched the theoretical foundation of synergistic sensitization.

Conclusion: HIT research is now starting to transition from preclinical studies to clinical investigations. Several HIT sensitization mechanisms have been reflected and demonstrated as significant survival benefits for patients through pioneering clinical trials. Further studies into the theoretical basis and practical standards of HIT, combined with larger-scale clinical studies involving more cancer types, will be necessary for the future.

Keywords: hyperthermia; immune checkpoint inhibitor; synergistic sensitization; tumor immunosuppression.

© 2022 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Source: Liu P, Ye M, Wu Y, Wu L, Lan K, Wu Z. Hyperthermia combined with immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy: Synergistic sensitization and clinical outcomes. Cancer Med. 2023 Feb;12(3):3201-3221. doi: 10.1002/cam4.5085. Epub 2022 Jul 31. PMID: 35908281; PMCID: PMC9939221.

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