Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy has shown promising potential for treating many types of cancer, including head and neck squamous cell cancers (HNSCCs). In a clinical trial of patients with high-risk oral cavity cancers treated with immunotherapy prior to surgery, most patients have continued to remain disease free even after a few years — better than expected outcomes with standard of care treatment. Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital took advantage of the clinical trial’s unique design to study blood and tissue samples from these patients before and after immunotherapy and found that certain populations of immune cells, most notably a type of T-cell called resident memory T-cells, expanded after just a couple of weeks of immune therapy treatment. These responding T-cell populations could be found in both the tumors and the circulating blood, which could help treat the tumor and prevent recurrences.
“Specific populations of immune cells found in the blood even before treatment strongly predicted which patients would respond best with the majority or even all of the tumor found to be killed at the time of surgery just a few weeks later,” said co-senior author Jonathan D. Schoenfeld, MD, MPH, of the Department of Radiation Oncology. “These biomarkers could potentially be used to help select patients for future trials to further improve outcomes.”
Read more in Cell.
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Tissue-resident memory and circulating T cells are early responders to pre-surgical cancer immunotherapy
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K.W.W. serves on the SAB of SQZ Biotech, Nextechinvest, Bisou Bioscience Company, and T-Scan Therapeutics and receives sponsored research funding from Novartis. He is a scientific co-founder of Immunitas Therapeutics. J.D.S. reports research support paid to the institution from Merck, BMS, Regeneron, Debiopharm; Consulting/Scientific Advisory Board/Travel fees: Genentech, Immunitas, Debiopharm, BMS, Nanobiotix, Tilos, Castle Biosciences, Astra Zeneca, LEK, Catenion, ACI Clinical, Astellas, Stimit, and Merck KGA; Expert witness fees. Stock options: Immunitas; Equity: Doximity. E.M.V.A. reports Advisory/Consulting: Tango Therapeutics, Genome Medical, Invitae, Enara Bio, Janssen, Manifold Bio, and Monte Rosa; Research support: Novartis, BMS; Equity: Tango Therapeutics, Genome Medical, Syapse, Enara Bio, Manifold Bio, Microsoft, and Monte Rosa; Travel reimbursement: Roche/Genentech; Patents: Institutional patents filed on chromatin mutations and immunotherapy response, and methods for clinical interpretation; intermittent legal consulting on patents for Foaley & Hoag. A.R. is a founder and equity holder of Celsius Therapeutics, an equity holder in Immunitas Therapeutics, and until August 31, 2020, was an SAB member of Syros Pharmaceuticals, Neogene Therapeutics, Asimov, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. From August 1, 2020, A.R. is an employee of Genentech and has equity in Roche.