The identification of immunological biomarkers in kidney cancers

Antonio Lopez-Beltran, Vanessa Henriques, Alessia Cimadamore, Matteo Santoni, Liang Cheng, Thomas Gevaert, Ana Blanca, Francesco Massari, Marina Scarpelli, Rodolfo Montironi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

15 Scopus citations


The recent approval of several agents have revolutionized the scenario of therapeutic management of metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) allowing us to reach important clinical end points with extended patients' survival. Actually, every new drug approved has represented an important step forward to the improvement of patient's survival. On the other hand, we now understand that RCC includes a large group of tumor entities, each of them with different genetic and mutational alterations, but also showing different clinical behavior; a reason behind the needs of subtype specific personalized approach to therapy of RCC. Immunotherapy is gradually becoming a key factor in the therapeutic algorithm for patients with locally advanced or metastatic RCC. Due to the combination of potent treatment success and potentially deadly adverse effects from immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), gathering prognostic and predictive information about FDA-indicated tumors seems to be prudent. Robust and reliable biomarkers are crucial for patient's selection of treatments with immunomodulatory drugs. PD-L1 expression is a poor prognostic factor and predictive of better responses from both PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors in a variety of tumor types including RCC. Each FDA approved PD-1/PD-L1 drug is paired with a PD-L1 Immunohistochemistry (IHC) assay. Thus, there is need for improved knowledge and application of PD-1/PD-L1 IHC biomarkers in daily practice. IHC staining appears in membranous fashion. The atezolizumab approved IHC assay is unique in that only immune cell staining is quantified for the use of this assay in RCC. A single biomarker for patient selection may not be feasible, given that immune responses are dynamic and evolve over time. Biomarker development for ICI drugs will likely require integration of multiple biologic components like PD-L1 expression, TILs and mutational load. New methodological approaches based on digital pathology may be relevant since they will allow recognition of the biomarker and to objectively quantitate its expression, and therefore might produce objective and reproducible cut-off assessment. Multidisciplinary approach is very much needed to fully develop the current and future value of ICI in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number456
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Issue numberNOV
StatePublished - 2018


  • Immunological biomarker
  • Immunotherapy
  • PD-L1
  • Predictive biomarker
  • RCC subtypes
  • Renal cell carcinoma
  • Tumor mutation load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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  • Cite this

    Lopez-Beltran, A., Henriques, V., Cimadamore, A., Santoni, M., Cheng, L., Gevaert, T., Blanca, A., Massari, F., Scarpelli, M., & Montironi, R. (2018). The identification of immunological biomarkers in kidney cancers. Frontiers in Oncology, 8(NOV), [456].