Researchers discover mechanism that regulates anti-tumor activity of immune cells

ovarian cancer
Intermediate magnification micrograph of a low malignant potential (LMP) mucinous ovarian tumour. H&E stain. The micrograph shows: Simple mucinous epithelium (right) and mucinous epithelium that pseudo-stratifies (left - diagnostic of a LMP tumour). Epithelium in a frond-like architecture is seen at the top of image. Credit: Nephron /Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

The prognosis of ovarian cancer is poor, with an estimated five-year survival of only 40% for advanced disease, the stage at which most ovarian carcinomas are diagnosed. These poor outcomes are partly due to the lack of effective therapies for advanced disease and recurrence. Immunotherapies hold promise for many types of cancer; however, studies have shown that patients with ovarian cancer do not have strong responses to existing drugs. In a new article published in Nature, Moffitt Cancer Center researchers demonstrate why some ovarian cancer patients evolve better than others and suggest possible approaches to improve patient outcomes.

Immunotherapeutic drugs activate T cells, a type of immune cell, to put up a defense against . Immunotherapies are approved to treat several different types of cancer and have greatly changed the standard of care and improved patient outcomes. However, in ovarian cancer, using immunotherapies aimed at stimulating T cells resulted in modest response rates. Studies have suggested that cancer patients who have a higher presence of other immune cells, such as plasma and memory B cells, could respond better to immunotherapies, but how these promote better outcomes is unclear. Moffitt researchers wanted to confirm whether antibodies produced by these cells are associated with better outcomes and assess how these cells contribute to the spontaneous anti-tumor immune response against ovarian cancer.

The researchers analyzed a panel of 534 samples from and found that patients who had a higher infiltration of B cells or B cell-derived plasma cells had better outcomes. B cells are a type of immune cell that produce antibodies and express one of five types of B cell receptors on their surface: IgM, IgD, IgG, IgE or IgA. These isotypes regulate different B cell signaling pathways and control B cell processes.

The surprise came when, upon further analysis of the samples, the Moffitt team discovered that the antibodies produced by B and plasma cells were predominantly of the IgA subtype, followed by IgG.

"We found that the presence of IgA regulated downstream signaling pathways of the ovarian cancer cells. Specifically, IgA resulted in inhibition of the RAS signaling pathway, which is known to contribute to ovarian cancer development," said Jose Conejo-Garcia, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Moffitt's Immunology Department.

This inhibition of RAS sensitized the tumor cells to T cell mediated cell killing, produced by both novel CAR T cells and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. The team also assessed that IgA and IgG secreted by the B cells recognized specific ovarian tumor cell surface markers and stimulated other immune cells called myeloid cells to target ovarian cancer for destruction.

These data provide new insights into how components of the immune system regulate ovarian progression and offer new opportunities to develop improved targeted agents. This includes a repertoire of tumor-derived antibodies that can be effectively used as novel immunotherapeutic agents. In addition, the study provides a mechanistic rationale for integrated antibody responses in the development of novel immunotherapies, which until now have been based on T cell-centric approaches.

"The findings indicate that immunotherapies that boost both coordinated B and T cell responses against , an immunogenic disease currently resistant to checkpoint inhibitors, are likely to show superior therapeutic benefit," said Subir Biswas, Ph.D., first author and postdoctoral fellow in the Conejo-Garcia lab.


Explore further

Researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer

More information: Subir Biswas et al, IgA transcytosis and antigen recognition govern ovarian cancer immunity, Nature (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03144-0
Journal information: Nature

Citation: Researchers discover mechanism that regulates anti-tumor activity of immune cells (2021, February 3) retrieved 4 March 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-02-mechanism-anti-tumor-immune-cells.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
41 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments