Immune checkpoint inhibitors: a milestone in the treatment of melanoma

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It has been known for decades that the immune system is able to detect and destroy tumor cells. In the past, this knowledge – mostly acquired through animal experiments – could not be used to benefit our patients, because immuno-oncological therapeutic approaches in humans had constantly failed over recent decades. With the exception of adjuvant interferon therapy, none of these approaches had found its way into everyday clinical practice, and only very few patients were able to enjoy long-term survival associated with good quality of life. With the advent of novel immunological approaches, the meaning of long-term survival as well as quality of life has been redefined for oncological patients. For the first time, a significant percentage of patients responds to treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors, showing long-term remission and even cure. It has already become apparent that immunotherapy will in the future be one of the therapeutic mainstays in the treatment of metastatic melanoma as well as many other tumor types. The present review article presents the most important new treatment modalities, their mechanism of action, clinical data regarding treatment response, and adverse events to be expected.

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