Cancers of the oral cavity cause significant cancer-related death worldwide. While survival rates have improved in recent years, new methods of treatment are being investigated to limit disease progression and to improve outcomes, particularly in oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) and oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMD). The emerging treatment modality of immunotherapy targets immune checkpoint molecules including PD-1 and its ligand PD-L1, CTLA-4, LAG-3, and TIM-3 to enhance the host immune response against tumours, and to limit the growth and progression of cancer cells. In this systematic review, we searched five databases for keywords pertaining to oral cancers and OPMDs, along with immune checkpoint inhibitors, in order to summarize the current status of their use and efficacy in these diseases. A total of 644 different articles were identified between 2004 and 2019, with 76 deemed suitable for inclusion in the study, providing a total of 8,826 samples. Combined results show expression of PD1 and PD-L1 in the majority of OPMD and OSCC samples, with expression correlating with increased progression and decreased survival rates. Immunotherapy agents pembrolizumab and nivolumab target PD-1 and have been shown to prolong survival rates and improve disease outcomes, especially in combination with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Despite the equivocal nature of current evidence, there is support for the prognostic and predictive value of immune checkpoint molecules, especially PD-L1, and many studies provide support for the effective use of immune checkpoint inhibitors in the management of OSCC. Limited data is available for OPMD, therefore this should be the focus of future research.
Kujan, O., van Schaijik, B., & Farah, C. (2020). Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Oral Cavity Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Oral Potentially Malignant Disorders: A Systematic Review. Cancers, 12, 1-25. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12071937