Until recently, patients with relapsed Hodgkin's lymphoma after brentuximab vedotin (Bv) treatments had poor treatment outcomes. Checkpoint inhibitors such as nivolumab and pembrolizumab that bind to and inhibit programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1), have demonstrated an overall response rate of 70% in Hodgkin's lymphoma patients; however, complete response is still low at 20% with median progression-free survival of 14 months. There are ongoing clinical studies to seek out synergistic combinations, with the goal of improving the complete response rates for the cure of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Although radiotherapy has a limited survival benefit in such refractory patients, several preclinical models and anecdotal clinical evidence have suggested that combining local tumor irradiation with checkpoint inhibitors can produce systemic regression of distant tumors, an abscopal effect. Most of these reported studies on the response with local conformal radiotherapy and checkpoint inhibitors in combination with the anti-cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) antibody-ipilimumab are in melanoma. Here we report in our case series that the checkpoint inhibitors that block CTLA4 and B7-homolog 1 (B7-H1) or PD-1 in preclinical radiotherapy models have shown an increased the rate of tumor regression. Our case series demonstrates that combining local irradiation with anti-PD-1 checkpoint blockade treatment is feasible and synergistic in refractory Hodgkin's lymphoma. Correlative studies also suggest that the expression of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), DNA damage response and mutational tumor burden can be used as potential biomarkers for treatment response.
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Vol. 190 • No. 3