Circulating biomarkers predictive of tumor response to cancer immunotherapy

Ernest Y. Lee, Rajan P. Kulkarni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Introduction: The advent of checkpoint blockade immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment, but clinical response to immunotherapies is highly heterogeneous among individual patients and between cancer types. This represents a challenge to oncologists when choosing specific immunotherapies for personalized medicine. Thus, biomarkers that can predict tumor responsiveness to immunotherapies before and during treatment are invaluable. Areas covered: We review the latest advances in 'liquid biopsy' biomarkers for noninvasive prediction and in-treatment monitoring of tumor response to immunotherapy, focusing primarily on melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer. We concentrate on high-quality studies published within the last five years on checkpoint blockade immunotherapies, and highlight significant breakthroughs, identify key areas for improvement, and provide recommendations for how these diagnostic tools can be translated into clinical practice. Expert opinion: The first biomarkers proposed to predict tumor response to immunotherapy were based on PD1/PDL1 expression, but their predictive value is limited to specific cancers or patient populations. Recent advances in single-cell molecular profiling of circulating tumor cells and host cells using next-generation sequencing has dramatically expanded the pool of potentially useful predictive biomarkers. As immunotherapy moves toward personalized medicine, a composite panel of both genomic and proteomic biomarkers will have enormous utility in therapeutic decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-904
Number of pages10
JournalExpert Review of Molecular Diagnostics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 3 2019


  • Checkpoint blockade immunotherapy
  • circulating tumor cells
  • liquid biopsy
  • noninvasive diagnostics
  • personalized medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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