Atypical B cells (CD21-CD27-IgD-) correlate with lack of response to checkpoint inhibitor therapy in NSCLC

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Introduction: Checkpoint inhibitor (CI) therapy has revolutionized treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, a proportion of patients do not respond to CI therapy for unknown reasons. Although the current paradigm in anti-tumor immunity evolves around T cells, the presence of tertiary lymphoid structures and memory B cells has been positively correlated with response to CI therapy in NSCLC. In addition, double negative (DN) (CD27- IgD-) B cells have been shown to be abundant in NSCLC compared to healthy lung tissue and inversely correlate with the intratumoral presence of memory B cells. Nonetheless, no study has correlated DN B cells to survival in NSCLC. Methods: In this study, we evaluated the presence and phenotype of B cells in peripheral blood with flow cytometry of patients with NSCLC and mesothelioma before receiving CI therapy and correlated these with clinical outcome. Results: Non-responding patients showed decreased frequencies of B cells, yet increased frequencies of antigen-experienced CD21- DN (Atypical) B cells compared to responding patients and HC, which was confirmed in patients with mesothelioma treated with CI therapy. Conclusions: These data show that the frequency of CD21- DN B cells correlates with lack of response to CI therapy in thoracic malignancies. The mechanism by which CD21- DN B cells hamper CI therapy remains unknown. Our findings support the hypothesis that CD21- DN B cells resemble phenotypically identical exhausted B cells that are seen in chronic infection or function as antigen presenting cells that induce regulatory T cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113428
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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