Researchers from Yale Cancer Center led a project in which they developed an investigational tool that can measure the anti-tumor immune activity in non-small cell lung cancer tumors and could determine which patients will respond to immunotherapeutic drugs. The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
This new assay measures sub-populations of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), a type of white blood cell that attacks tumors. When high amounts of TILs are present, the associated treatment outcomes are significantly better. According to the study’s first author Kurt Schalper, who is a researcher in Yale School of Medicine and also the director of the Translational Immuno-oncology Laboratory at Yale Cancer Center, this is a completely different method from those already developed, since it can quantify cells in an objective and reproducible manner.
“The strength of our method is that it allows simultaneous measurement of different TIL subtypes and removes the subjectivity from the process by using automated scoring. In addition, this assay can assess TILs activity in different tumor compartments. We believe that this method could help determine which patients are more likely to benefit from new immune checkpoint therapies,” Dr. Schalper said in a press release.
Due to the test’s capacity to thoroughly measure the components of an anti-tumor immune response, it could allow the development of novel immunotherapies, similar to ipilimumab (an anti-CTLA-4 antibody) or nivolumab (an anti-PD-1/PD-L1 antibody), which have shown exceptional clinical responses in several types of cancers. In the future, efforts will be focused on validating these measurements and integrating them in a patient’s routine assessment.
This assay was developed in Dr. David Rimm’s laboratory, a pathology and oncology professor who is also the director of Pathology Tissue Services at Yale. His colleagues included Jason Brown, Daniel Carvajal-Hausdorf, Joseph McLaughlin, Roy Herbst, all of Yale; and Dr. Konstantinos N. Syrigos of Athens University School of Medicine; and Vamsidhar Velcheti, of the Cleveland Clinic.
Read about a recent study showing that lung and breast cancer patients who have lower levels of tristetraprolin (TTP), a tumor suppressing protein, develop more aggressive tumors and have a poorer prognosis than those with high levels of TTP.