Cancer Research Institute Media Room



Combination Drug Strategies Gain Ground in Global Immuno-Oncology Pipeline of PD-1 and PD-L1 Clinical Trials, New Report from Cancer Research Institute Reveals

The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of powerful immunotherapies for all cancers, announced today the publication in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery of its newest analysis of the global landscape of PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitor drug development for cancer treatment. The report, titled “Combinations take centre stage in PD1/PDL1 inhibitor clinical trials,” provides an analysis of the major trends in global clinical therapies and patient enrollment of trials using PD-1/PD-L1-targeting monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). These treatments are now the standard of care for 17 different cancer types and two tissue-agnostic indications. This latest analysis follows CRI’s previous reports on this topic published between 2017 and 2019.

“Since conducting our first survey of the PD-1/PD-L1 mAb landscape in 2017, the number of clinical studies that include this type of immunotherapy has grown significantly, most notably trials that combine these PD-1 or PD-L1-blocking antibodies with other forms of treatment,” said Samik Upadhaya, PhD, a research analyst for the CRI Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator and first author of the report. “This latest analysis reveals a clearly defined trend toward combination strategies, as seen by the doubling of the number of these trials just in the last year and the more than fourfold increase since our initial analysis in 2017.”

The report, which CRI conducted in collaboration with IQVIA, a leading global provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions, and clinical research services to the life sciences industry, also describes other trends in global PD-1/PD-L1 clinical development, including a decrease in planned enrollment of monotherapy trials as well as a reduction in the number of new trials combining anti-PD-1/PD-L1 mAbs with anti-CTLA-4 mAbs. Rather, the report reveals an increase in combination trials targeting PD-1/PD-L1 and VEGF/R (angiogenesis) pathways as well as those including novel immuno-oncology agents designed to bypass other resistance mechanisms and increase overall efficacy of these combination therapies.

Lastly, the report also notes an overall decrease in patient recruitment rates in the past year using real world trial data in most global regions despite the significant increase in number of trials.

“The reduction in global patient recruitment rates may be due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical research,” according to Jay Campbell, managing director of the CRI Clinical Accelerator, whose team published an analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on global oncology development earlier this year. “Whether this trend is likely to continue will not be known until the full impact of the pandemic is realized, and this is something we are monitoring closely.”

To access an interactive dashboard of the report, visit the CRI website at

Reference: Upadhaya S, Neftelinov ST, Hodge JP, Oliva C, Campbell JR, Yu JX. Combinations take centre stage in PD1/PDL1 inhibitor clinical trials. Nat. Rev. Drug Discov.

About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to saving more lives by fueling the discovery and development of powerful immunotherapies for all types of cancer. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes four Nobel laureates and 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested $445 million in support of research conducted by immunologists and tumor immunologists at the world’s leading medical centers and universities, and has contributed to many of the key scientific advances that demonstrate the potential for immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment. To learn more, go to

About the CRI Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator
CRI’s clinical program, the Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator, is a unique academia-nonprofit-industry collaboration model that serves as an “incubator” that delivers multi-center clinical trials for promising new immunotherapy combinations. CRI’s venture philanthropy fund supports clinical trials within this program, which fosters a collaborative environment that enables scientists to advance their most ambitious research ideas and accelerates studies that one group or company could not do alone. To learn more about the CRI Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator, go to

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