T-cell populations that predict response to immunotherapy identified!

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 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. “These biomarkers could potentially be used to help select patients for future trials to further improve outcomes.”