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Immune checkpoint pathways consist of stimulatory pathways, which can function like a strong impulse to promote T helper cells or killer CD8+ cells activation and proliferation. On the other hand, inhibitory pathways keep self-tolerance of the immune response. Increasing immunological activity by stimulating and blocking these signaling pathways are recognized as immune checkpoint therapies. Providing the best responses of CD8+ T cell needs the activation of T cell receptor along with the co-stimulation that is generated via stimulatory checkpoint pathways ligation including Inducible Co-Stimulator (ICOS), CD40, 4-1BB, GITR, and OX40. In cancer, programmed cell death receptor-1 (PD-1), Programmed cell death ligand-1(PD-L1) and Cytotoxic T Lymphocyte-Associated molecule-4 (CTLA-4) are the most known inhibitory checkpoint pathways, which can hinder the immune responses which have specifically anti-tumor characteristics and attenuate T cell activation and also cytokine production. The use of antagonistic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that block CTLA-4 or PD-1 activation is used in a variety of malignancies. It has been reported that they can lead to an increase in T cells and thereby strengthen anti-tumor immunity. Agonists of stimulatory checkpoint pathways can induce strong immunologic responses in metastatic patients; however, for achieving long-lasting benefits for the wide range of patients, efficient combinatorial therapies are required. In the present review, we focus on the preclinical and basic research on the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which immune checkpoint inhibitor blockade or other approaches with co-stimulatory agonists work together to improve T-cell antitumor immunity.
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