Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors for Brain Metastases


Neurosurgery 87:E281–E288, 2020

Immune checkpoint inhibitors enhance immune recognition of tumors by interfering with the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA4) and programmed death 1 (PD1) pathways. In the past decade, these agents brought significant improvements to the prognostic outlook of patients with metastatic cancers. Recent data from retrospective analyses and a few prospective studies suggest that checkpoint inhibitors have activity against brainmetastases from melanoma and non small cell lung cancer, as single agents or in combination with radiotherapy. Some studies reported intracranial response rates that were comparable with systemic ones.

In this review, we provide a comprehensive summary of clinical data supporting the use of anti-CTLA4 and anti-PD1 agents in brain metastases. We also touch upon specific considerations on the assessment of intracranial responses in patients and immunotherapy-specific toxicities.

We conclude that a subset of patients with brain metastases benefit from the addition of checkpoint inhibitors to standard of care therapeutic modalities, including radiotherapy and surgery.