Immunotherapy of Melanoma is Associated with B Cells

Release Date: 07-Oct-2019

The findings of a study published in Nature Communications have shown that B cells might play an important role in immunotherapy for melanoma. Currently, immunotherapy is primarily focused on T cells, but the results suggest that B cells could also provide an interesting research candidate. The study was performed by the research team at EMBL's European Bioinformatics Institute and the Medical University of Vienna.


Immunotherapy is a technique that utilizes the body’s own immune system to recognize and fights the disease. It comes in a variety of forms, including cancer vaccines, targeted antibodies or tumour-infecting viruses. Only some cancer patients currently benefit from this kind of therapy.


Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer, in which the main focus of immunotherapy is around T cells. The main role of T cells is to control and shape the immune system. It is also able to directly kill cancer cells, while also recruiting other cells into the process. Alongside T cells, B cells play a critical role in triggering melanoma-associated inflammation. B cells are a type of white blood cell, which can produce antibodies along with several important messenger molecules.


The researchers observed that when B cells were exhausted from melanoma patients, the number of T cells and other immune cells intensely decreased within the tumours as well. During the study, the researchers showed that a special form of B cells is responsible for guiding T cells and other immune cells to the tumour and hence it can play a major role in cancer management.


According to the Johannes Griss, Researcher at the Medical University of Vienna and EMBL-EBI, “Immunotherapy has transformed cancer treatment. It unleashes T cells so they can fight cancer in a more effective way. For the first time, we found that B cells also play an important part in the process and help T cells find the tumour. The role of B cells in immunotherapy is still largely unknown, but it seems they may have more impact than previously thought.”

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