New method could predict response to cancer treatment

SciLifeLab researcher Tobias Sjöblom recently led a study on a new cancer detection method. The method helps doctors provide precise disease prognoses and predict the patient’s immunotherapy responses. This is done by combining two types of immune cells showing specific cancer characteristics.

The immune system has become increasingly important in cancer treatment, but it is very complex and involves many cell types. These cells are part of the environment surrounding the tumors. They can suppress or support cancer growth, which is why different types of immunotherapy are used to treat cancer of various kinds.

However, the side effects of immunotherapy can be severe and not provide the wanted outcome because some tumors do not respond to the treatment. A new method developed by Tobias Sjöblom and his research group has identified a specific combination of immune cells that can be used to predict the response to immunotherapy. Avoiding treating patients that would not see any benefit.

“We started by mapping 15 different immune cells in tumor samples from patients with colorectal cancer. The presence of one specific type of macrophage and one kind of T cell were found to be associated with patient fate,” explains Artur Mezheyeuski, researcher at Uppsala University and first author of the study.

This method is called Signature of Immune Activation (SIA). It’s a prognostic method based on the ratio of CD8 T cells to a specific macrophage subset. A correlation was found between SIA and disease progression in cancer of the large intestine and rectal cancer, and in several other common cancer forms.

“It is relatively simple to determine SIA and it functions as an independent biomarker for at least five different cancer forms. It also works better than other prognostic methods based on immune cell analysis,” adds Mezheyeuski.

The researchers analyzed samples from malignant melanoma patients and found that those with high SIA values responded better to the immunotherapy treatment. This means that you can use SIA to predict the treatment response.

“We believe that our results should be further evaluated in prospective studies, to demonstrate that SIA can be used for selecting patients that are likely responders to different immunotherapies,” says Tobias Sjöblom, SciLifeLab researcher and professor at Uppsala University, who led the study.



Last updated: 2023-03-02

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