Research highlight

Cancer: B cells predict immunotherapy responses


January 16, 2020

The presence of B cells inside larger clusters of immune cells can be used to predict a positive response to immunotherapy in some patients with cancer, a trio of Nature studies reveals. The findings may help to improve patient care, and aid the development of therapeutic agents.

Immunotherapy harnesses the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Although this approach has improved cancer treatment, only 20% of patients achieve lasting clinical benefit, spurring the search for biomarkers that can predict the future response to treatment.

Three separate studies demonstrate that when B cells (components of the immune system) form cell aggregates known as tertiary lymphoid structures, the response to immunotherapy is improved. This effect is shown in metastatic melanoma, soft-tissue sarcoma and renal cell carcinoma, report Wolf Fridman and colleagues, Jennifer Wargo and colleagues, and Goran Jonsson and colleagues.

This new potential biomarker adds to the growing list of clinical prognostics, which includes increased immune activity, mutational burden and the composition of the patient microbiome. Current FDA-approved immunotherapies aim to boost the activity of a different subset of immune cells, known as killer T cells, but the new studies highlight the potential value of therapies that target multiple immune cell types.

doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1906-8

Return to research highlights

PrivacyMark System