Immune cells in the tumour associated with worse prognosis for mantle cell lymphoma

2021-06-02

Tumour cells can affect immune cells in the body so that the tumour is not attacked by the immune defence. In a new research paper from IGP, the researchers show that some types of immune cells are more common in more aggressive tumours of the cancer form mantle cell lymphoma. The findings suggest a possibility to develop drugs that can improve the prognosis for mantle cell lymphoma patients.

When tumours develop in the body they should be considered foreign and be attacked by the immune defence. However, it is now well known that the tumour cells communicate with the body’s immune defence and that the tumour uses several tricks to avoid the immune defence, and can even use it to its advantage. Tumour cells can attract different kinds of immune cells, e.g. regulatory T cells that dampen other parts of the immune response, and macrophages that can assist the tumour with formation of new blood vessels, growth and metastasis.

Mantle cell lymphoma is a type of tumour with poor prognosis and in many patients the disease relapses. In the new study the researchers have examined which types of immune cells are present in the tumour tissue in mantle cell lymphoma and whether they correlate with disease prognosis.

“We found that both macrophages and cells that express the immune marker PD-L1 are more common in more aggressive tumours. Even after adjustments for known risk factors, such the growth rate of the tumour, we could detect that these cells, together with certain regulatory T cells, can be correlated with worse prognosis for the patient,” says Anna Nikkarinen, PhD student in Ingrid Glimelius’ research group and one of the main authors of the paper.

Determining the amounts of different kinds of immune cells in the tumour could potentially be used to improve the possibilities to provide disease prognosis and choosing an optimal therapy. The findings are also interesting since drugs that target PD-1/PD-L1 (called checkpoint inhibitors) are established as therapies for other tumour types. In addition, there is ongoing research to develop drugs that affect the tumours’ communication with macrophages.

“More research is needed before it’s possible to say whether such drugs can improve the prognosis for patients with mantle cell lymphoma but our study is one piece of the puzzle towards getting there,” says Ingrid Glimelius who has led the study.

The study is published in British Journal of Haematology and has been performed in collaboration with researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Lund University, and Finish and Norwegian researchers.

More information:
Paper in British Journal of Haematology
Ingrid Glimelius’ research