Cryoablation and immunotherapy: an overview of evidence on its synergy

B. M. Aarts, E. G. Klompenhouwer, S. L. Rice, F. Imani, T. Baetens, A. Bex, S. Horenblas, M. Kok, J. B.A.G. Haanen, R. G.H. Beets-Tan, F. M. Gómez

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Cancer cells can escape the immune system by different mechanisms. The evasion of cancer cells from immune surveillance is prevented by immune checkpoint inhibitors, allowing the patient’s own immune system to attack their cancer. Immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown improvement in overall survival for melanoma, lung cancer and renal cell carcinoma in clinical trials. Unfortunately, not all patients respond to this therapy. In cancer management, percutaneous ablation techniques are well established for both cure and local control of many tumour types. Cryoablation of the tumour tissue results in cell destruction by freezing. Contrary to heat-based ablative modalities, cryoablation induces tumour cell death by osmosis and necrosis. It is hypothesised that with necrosis, the intracellular contents of the cancer cells stay intact allowing the immune system to induce an immune-specific reaction. This immune-specific reaction can, in theory, also affect cancer cells outside the ablated tissue, known as the abscopal effect. Unfortunately, this effect is rarely observed, but when cryoablation is combined with immunotherapy, the effect of both therapies may be enhanced. Although several preclinical studies demonstrated a synergistic effect between cryoablation and immunotherapy, prospective clinical trials are needed to prove this clinical benefit for patients. In this review, we will outline the current evidence for the combination of cryoablation with immunotherapy to treat cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number53
JournalInsights into Imaging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Cryoablation
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitor
  • Immunotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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