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Neoadjuvant Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy for Localized Deficient Mismatch Repair Colorectal CancerA Review

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Importance  Colorectal cancers (CRCs) with deficient DNA mismatch repair (dMMR) account for 15% of all CRCs. Deficient MMR is a predictive biomarker associated with responsiveness to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) in solid tumors, including CRC. The remarkable effectiveness of ICIs in metastatic CRC has led to their evaluation in the neoadjuvant and adjuvant treatment of localized disease.

Observations  Multiple prospective phase 2 studies in limited numbers of patients with localized dMMR CRC demonstrate high complete clinical and pathological response rates (60%-100%) to neoadjuvant ICIs, with low rates of grade 3 or higher ICI-related toxic effects. Given the median follow-up of 12 to 25 months in these studies, longer-term monitoring is needed to determine the durability of response and to ensure that oncologic outcomes are not compromised in patients undergoing nonoperative management. Neoadjuvant ICI therapy is especially attractive for patients with rectal cancer given the significant morbidity that accompanies pelvic irradiation and total mesorectal excision. Ongoing and planned prospective phase 2 trials will provide further data on important issues, including optimal neoadjuvant treatment duration, ICI monotherapy vs combination, and the need for adjuvant ICI therapy.

Conclusions and Relevance  While this review found that early results of neoadjuvant immunotherapy for localized dMMR CRC show high rates of major and complete pathological response, longer-term follow-up data are needed to ensure that oncologic outcomes are not compromised and are ideally improved. Neoadjuvant ICI therapy in localized dMMR CRC represents a potential paradigm shift with implications for organ preservation.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: May 9, 2023.

Published Online: September 7, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2023.3323

Corresponding Author: Frank A. Sinicrope, MD, Division of Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55905 (sinicrope.frank@mayo.edu).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Sinicrope reported being an advisor to Roche Holdings AG and holding patents with Roche Tissue Diagnostics. No other disclosures were reported.

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AMA CME Accreditation Information

Credit Designation Statement: The American Medical Association designates this Journal-based CME activity activity for a maximum of 1.00  AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Successful completion of this CME activity, which includes participation in the evaluation component, enables the participant to earn up to:

  • 1.00 Medical Knowledge MOC points in the American Board of Internal Medicine's (ABIM) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program;;
  • 1.00 Self-Assessment points in the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery’s (ABOHNS) Continuing Certification program;
  • 1.00 MOC points in the American Board of Pediatrics’ (ABP) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program;
  • 1.00 Lifelong Learning points in the American Board of Pathology’s (ABPath) Continuing Certification program; and
  • 1.00 credit toward the CME [and Self-Assessment requirements] of the American Board of Surgery’s Continuous Certification program

It is the CME activity provider's responsibility to submit participant completion information to ACCME for the purpose of granting MOC credit.

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