The Emerging Role of Immunotherapy in Resectable Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Elizabeth G. Dunne, Cameron N. Fick, James M. Isbell, Jamie E. Chaft, Nasser Altorki, Bernard J. Park, Jonathan Spicer, Patrick M. Forde, Daniel Gomez, Puneeth Iyengar, David H. Harpole, Thomas E. Stinchcombe, Moishe Liberman, Matthew J. Bott, Prasad S. Adusumilli, James Huang, Gaetano Rocco, David R. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Despite surgical resection, long-term survival of patients with resectable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains poor. Adjuvant chemotherapy, the standard of care for locally advanced NSCLC, provides a marginal 5.4% benefit in survival. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have shown a significant survival benefit in some patients with advanced NSCLC and are being evaluated for perioperative use in resectable NSCLC. Methods: We conducted a literature search using the PubMed online database to identify clinical trials of immunotherapy in resectable NSCLC and studies analyzing biomarkers and immune priming strategies. Results: Building on previous phase I and II trials, randomized phase III trials have shown efficacy of neoadjuvant nivolumab, perioperative pembrolizumab, adjuvant atezolizumab, and adjuvant pembrolizumab in the treatment of NSCLC with improvement of event-free/disease-free survival of 24% to 42%, leading to United States Food and Drug Administration approval of these drugs in the treatment of resectable NSCLC. Three additional phase III trials have also recently reported the use of immunotherapy both before and after surgery, with pathologic complete response rates of 17% to 25%, significantly better than chemotherapy alone. Perioperative ICI therapy has comparable perioperative morbidity to chemotherapy alone and does not impair surgical outcomes. Conclusions: Perioperative immunotherapy, in combination with chemotherapy, is safe and improves outcomes in patients with resectable NSCLC. Questions regarding patient selection, the need for adjuvant ICI therapy after neoadjuvant chemoimmunotherapy, and the duration of perioperative immunotherapy remain to be answered by future trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-129
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number1
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Surgery


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