Tumor cells use immune-checkpoint pathways to evade the host immune system and suppress immune cell function. These cells express programmed cell-death protein 1 ligand 1 (PD-L1)/PD-L2, which bind to the programmed cell-death protein 1 (PD-1) present on cytotoxic T cells, trigger inhibitory signaling, and reduce cytotoxicity and T-cell exhaustion. Immune-checkpoint blockade can inhibit this signal and may serve as an effective therapeutic strategy in patients with solid tumors. Several trials have been conducted on immune-checkpoint inhibitor therapy in patients with malignant lymphoma and their efficacy has been reported. For example, in Hodgkin lymphoma, immune-checkpoint blockade has resulted in response rates of 65% to 75%. However, in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the response rate to immune-checkpoint blockade was lower. In this review, we evaluate the biology of immune-checkpoint inhibition and the current data on its efficacy in malignant lymphoma, and identify the cases in which the treatment was more effective.
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