Are Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors Efficacious Among Patients With Penile Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

May 4, 2024 | by

Penile squamous cell carcinoma is a rare type of penile cancer with limited treatment options. An international study has found that the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors may offer clinical benefits for some patients with advanced penile squamous cell carcinoma. These findings were published by Talal El Zarif, MD, and colleagues in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Talal El Zarif, MD

Talal El Zarif, MD

“These findings provide encouraging evidence that immune checkpoint inhibitors can be effective in treating a subset of patients with penile squamous cell carcinoma,” said co–first author Amin Nassar, MD, a member of Yale Cancer Center and a clinical fellow at Yale School of Medicine. “We believe that further translational studies and biomarker-based research are essential to identify patients most likely to benefit from this therapy and improve the outcomes for individuals with penile cancer.”

In a study conducted between 2015 and 2022, researchers assessed the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors by focusing on an international cohort of 92 patients with locally advanced or metastatic penile cancer. The most common immune checkpoint inhibitors administered were pembrolizumab, nivolumab, and cemiplimab, but some patients received combination treatment with nivolumab and ipilimumab.

Researchers found that 13% of all patients—and 35% of patients with metastases limited to lymph nodes—responded to immune checkpoint inhibitors. The average overall survival rate was 9.8 months. Treatment-related adverse events occurred in 29% of patients.

“The study highlights the importance of high-quality, real-world research to advance therapeutic options for this rare cancer,” said co–first author Dr. El Zarif, an oncology research fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a member of Yale Cancer Center. “We are hopeful that response and survival rates will continue to improve for patients fighting penile cancer.”

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit


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