IMMUNOTHERAPY Three studies have identified tumour B-cell infiltration as an independent marker of response to check-point inhibition therapy.


Jan. 27, 2020


IMMUNOTHERAPY Three studies have identified tumour B-cell infiltration as an independent marker of response to check-point inhibition therapy. The precise mechanisms underpinning this association are yet to be elucidated.

Tertiary lymphoid structures improve immunotherapy and survival in melanoma

Cabrita et al  Nature volume 577, pages561–565(2020)


Checkpoint blockade therapies that reactivate tumour-associated T cells can induce durable tumour control and result in the long-term survival of patients with advanced cancers. Current predictive biomarkers for therapy response include high levels of intratumour immunological activity, a high tumour mutational burden and specific characteristics of the gut microbiota. Although the role of T cells in antitumour responses has thoroughly been studied, other immune cells remain insufficiently explored. Here we use clinical samples of metastatic melanomas to investigate the role of B cells in antitumour responses, and find that the co-occurrence of tumour-associated CD8+ T cells and CD20+ B cells is associated with improved survival, independently of other clinical variables. Immunofluorescence staining of CXCR5 and CXCL13 in combination with CD20 reveals the formation of tertiary lymphoid structures in these CD8+CD20+ tumours. We derived a gene signature associated with tertiary lymphoid structures, which predicted clinical outcomes in cohorts of patients treated with immune checkpoint blockade. Furthermore, B-cell-rich tumours were accompanied by increased levels of TCF7+ naive and/or memory T cells. This was corroborated by digital spatial-profiling data, in which T cells in tumours without tertiary lymphoid structures had a dysfunctional molecular phenotype. Our results indicate that tertiary lymphoid structures have a key role in the immune microenvironment in melanoma, by conferring distinct T cell phenotypes. Therapeutic strategies to induce the formation of tertiary lymphoid structures should be explored to improve responses to cancer immunotherapy.

B cells are associated with survival and immunotherapy response in sarcoma

Florent Petitprezet al  Nature volume 577, pages556–560(2020)


Soft-tissue sarcomas represent a heterogeneous group of cancer, with more than 50 histological subtypes1,2. The clinical presentation of patients with different subtypes is often atypical, and responses to therapies such as immune checkpoint blockade vary widely3,4. To explain this clinical variability, here we study gene expression profiles in 608 tumours across subtypes of soft-tissue sarcoma. We establish an immune-based classification on the basis of the composition of the tumour microenvironment and identify five distinct phenotypes: immune-low (A and B), immune-high (D and E), and highly vascularized (C) groups. In situ analysis of an independent validation cohort shows that class E was characterized by the presence of tertiary lymphoid structures that contain T cells and follicular dendritic cells and are particularly rich in B cells. B cells are the strongest prognostic factor even in the context of high or low CD8+ T cells and cytotoxic contents. The class-E group demonstrated improved survival and a high response rate to PD1 blockade with pembrolizumab in a phase 2 clinical trial. Together, this work confirms the immune subtypes in patients with soft-tissue sarcoma, and unravels the potential of B-cell-rich tertiary lymphoid structures to guide clinical decision-making and treatments, which could have broader applications in other diseases.


B cells and tertiary lymphoid structures promote immunotherapy response

Beth A. Helmink,et alNature volume 577, pages549–555(2020)


Treatment with immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) has revolutionized cancer therapy. Until now, predictive biomarkers1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and strategies to augment clinical response have largely focused on the T cell compartment. However, other immune subsets may also contribute to anti-tumour immunity11,12,13,14,15, although these have been less well-studied in ICB treatment16. A previously conducted neoadjuvant ICB trial in patients with melanoma showed via targeted expression profiling17 that B cell signatures were enriched in the tumours of patients who respond to treatment versus non-responding patients. To build on this, here we performed bulk RNA sequencing and found that B cell markers were the most differentially expressed genes in the tumours of responders versus non-responders. Our findings were corroborated using a computational method (MCP-counter18) to estimate the immune and stromal composition in this and two other ICB-treated cohorts (patients with melanoma and renal cell carcinoma). Histological evaluation highlighted the localization of B cells within tertiary lymphoid structures. We assessed the potential functional contributions of B cells via bulk and single-cell RNA sequencing, which demonstrate clonal expansion and unique functional states of B cells in responders. Mass cytometry showed that switched memory B cells were enriched in the tumours of responders. Together, these data provide insights into the potential role of B cells and tertiary lymphoid structures in the response to ICB treatment, with implications for the development of biomarkers and therapeutic targets.