a Medizinische Klinik 1, Universitätsklinikum Frankfurt , Goethe-Universität , Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt/Main , Germany.
T-cell checkpoint inhibition as a cancer treatment approach has been the main breakthrough in cancer treatment during the last years. Since the approval of the first commercial CTLA-4 antibody ipilimumab in 2011 for the treatment of melanoma, research and drug development in this field has accelerated massively. In 2014 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first PD-1 targeting agent, namely pembrolizumab, shortly followed by nivolumab. Areas covered: Nivolumab is a fully human immunoglobulin G4 anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody which is approved for multiple advanced malignancies, including melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, squamous head and neck cancer and urothelial carcinoma. In September 2017 nivolumab was approved by the FDA for liver cancer as a second line treatment after failure of sorafenib based on the data of the multi-cohort phase 1/2 trial CheckMate-040. This article reviews the concept of immunotherapy in liver cancer with focus on nivolumab. Expert commentary: Immunotherapy in hepatocellular carcinoma provides a new treatment option for patients in advanced stages besides sorafenib and other newly approved tyrosine kinase inhibitors. More data concerning effectivity and choosing the right patients for immunotherapy is warranted in the future.