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The Raw Power of B Cells in Tumor Defense: Tertiary Lymphoid Structures and Immunotherapy

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Introduction: In the battle against cancer, the immune system plays a crucial role in recognizing and eliminating tumor cells. Recent research has shed light on the presence of B cells, a type of immune cell, within solid tumors. These B cells are organized in structures known as tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS), which have shown a correlation with improved patient outcomes and a stronger response to immunotherapy. However, the underlying mechanisms behind this association remain unclear. In this blog post, we delve into the intriguing world of B cell responses in lung cancer patients and mouse models, aiming to unravel the role of TLS in the context of immunotherapy.


The Role of B Cells in Lung Cancer: To understand the significance of B cells in lung cancer, scientists conducted an analysis using samples from patients participating in the TRACERx 421 study. This study tracks the progression of non-small-cell lung cancer through various treatments. Additionally, they utilized data from other lung cancer cohorts and employed an innovative mouse model of lung adenocarcinoma. The investigation revealed that both human and mouse lung adenocarcinomas induce local germinal center responses, where B cells become activated and proliferate, leading to the production of antibodies that target the tumor.


A Surprising Target: Endogenous Retrovirus Envelope Glycoproteins: Among the diverse range of tumor antigens, researchers made a significant discovery: B cells target endogenous retrovirus (ERV) envelope glycoproteins. ERVs are remnants of ancient retroviral infections that have become integrated into our genome. The identification of B cell responses targeting ERVs in both humans and mice underscores the potential of these antibodies in fighting lung cancer. Excitingly, the study also found that immunotherapy, including immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) and targeted inhibition of KRAS(G12C), amplifies the B cell response specific to ERVs.

Harnessing the Power of B Cells and TLS Formation: Further investigations have unveiled the critical role of TLS formation in effective immunotherapy. In the mouse model, the researchers observed that successful immunotherapy required the presence of TLS, which is dependent on the chemokine CXCL13. Intriguingly, therapeutic treatment with CXCL13 not only potentiated anti-tumor immunity but also synergized with ICB, resulting in an enhanced response. These findings provide valuable insights into the mechanistic basis for the association between TLS and immunotherapy response.

Conclusion: The discovery of B cells within solid tumors and their organization in TLS represents a promising avenue for improving immunotherapy outcomes in lung cancer patients. The identification of ERV envelope glycoproteins as a target for B cell antibodies underscores their potential in combating this disease. Moreover, the critical role of TLS formation and the chemokine CXCL13 in effective immunotherapy opens doors for novel therapeutic strategies. As researchers continue to unravel the complex interplay between B cells, TLS, and immunotherapy, we move closer to harnessing the full potential of the immune system in the fight against lung cancer.

From: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-05771-9

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