Following initial success in melanoma and lung tumours, immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are now well recognized as a major immunotherapy treatment modality for multiple types of solid cancers. In colorectal cancer (CRC), the small subset that is mismatch-repair-deficient and microsatellite-instability-high (dMMR/MSI-H) derive benefit from immunotherapy; however, the vast majority of patients with proficient MMR (pMMR) or with microsatellite stable (MSS) CRC do not. Immunoscore and the consensus molecular subtype classifications are promising biomarkers in predicting therapeutic efficacy in selected CRC. In pMRR/MSS CRC, biomarkers are also needed to understand the molecular mechanisms governing immune reactivity and to predict their relationship to treatment. The continuous development of such biomarkers would offer new perspectives and more personalized treatments by targeting oncological options, including ICIs, which modify the tumour-immune microenvironment. In this review, we focus on CRC and discuss the current status of ICIs, the role of biomarkers to predict response to immunotherapy, and the approaches being explored to render pMMR/MSS CRC more immunogenic through the use of combined therapies.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press and Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University.