Immune checkpoint inhibition for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma: Current limitations and future options

Derya Kabacaoglu, Katrin J. Ciecielski, Dietrich A. Ruess, Hana Algül

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), as the most frequent form of pancreatic malignancy, still is associated with a dismal prognosis. Due to its late detection, most patients are ineligible for surgery, and chemotherapeutic options are limited. Tumor heterogeneity and a characteristic structure with crosstalk between the cancer/malignant cells and an abundant tumor microenvironment (TME) make PDAC a very challenging puzzle to solve. Thus far, targeted therapies have failed to substantially improve the overall survival of PDAC patients. Immune checkpoint inhibition, as an emerging therapeutic option in cancer treatment, shows promising results in different solid tumor types and hematological malignancies. However, PDAC does not respond well to immune checkpoint inhibitors anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) or anti-cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) alone or in combination. PDAC with its immune-privileged nature, starting from the early pre-neoplastic state, appears to escape from the antitumor immune response unlike other neoplastic entities. Different mechanisms how cancer cells achieve immune-privileged status have been hypothesized. Among them are decreased antigenicity and impaired immunogenicity via both cancer cell-intrinsic mechanisms and an augmented immunosuppressive TME. Here, we seek to shed light on the recent advances in both bench and bedside investigation of immunotherapeutic options for PDAC. Furthermore, we aim to compile recent data about how PDAC adopts immune escape mechanisms, and how these mechanisms might be exploited therapeutically in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as PD-1 or CTLA-4 antibodies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1878
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Antigenicity
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • Immunogenicity
  • Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
  • Triple E
  • Tumor microenvironment


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