Can Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors be Effective for Penile Squamous Cell Carcinoma Patients?

Penile squamous cell carcinoma, a rare form of penile cancer, presents limited treatment options. However, a recent international study suggests that immune checkpoint inhibitors could be beneficial for certain patients with advanced penile squamous cell carcinoma. The study, led by Dr. Talal El Zarif and colleagues, was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Co-first author Dr. Amin Nassar from Yale Cancer Center and Yale School of Medicine emphasized the potential of immune checkpoint inhibitors in treating a subset of patients with penile squamous cell carcinoma. Further translational studies and biomarker-based research are seen as crucial in identifying individuals who may benefit most from this therapy, ultimately improving outcomes for patients with penile cancer.

The study, conducted between 2015 and 2022, involved a cohort of 92 patients with locally advanced or metastatic penile cancer. The most common immune checkpoint inhibitors used were pembrolizumab, nivolumab, and cemiplimab, with some patients receiving combination treatment with nivolumab and ipilimumab.

Researchers noted that 13% of all patients, and 35% of patients with metastases confined to lymph nodes, responded positively to immune checkpoint inhibitors. The average overall survival rate was 9.8 months, with 29% of patients experiencing treatment-related adverse events.

Dr. El Zarif, also an oncology research fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a member of Yale Cancer Center, stressed the significance of high-quality real-world research in advancing therapeutic options for this rare cancer. The hope is that response and survival rates will continue to improve for those battling penile cancer.

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