New insights could help predict treatment response

17 February 2022

Researchers at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, the Francis Crick Institute and University College London have found immune cell patterns in tumours that can help predict whether patients with kidney cancer will respond to immunotherapy. 

Close up photo of equipment at The Royal Marsden's Centre for Molecular Pathology

Treatment for clear cell renal cell carcinoma – the most common type of kidney cancer – often includes immunotherapy, but it does not always work and there is currently no way to predict whether it will be effective in an individual patient.

Results from the ADAPTeR trial, published in Cancer Cell journal, suggest that an increased number of specific ‘clonal’ T-cell receptors – proteins on the surface of T cells that appear in the tumour before treatment – was linked to a greater chance of a positive response to immunotherapy.

Researchers analysed 115 tumour samples from 15 people with metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma who received the drug nivolumab. They found that if the T-cell receptors were maintained during treatment, this was the strongest indicator that the drug would be effective.

Dr Lewis Au, co-lead author and Clinical Research Fellow at The Royal Marsden and the Crick, whose role is supported by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, said: “In people who responded to this immunotherapy, there is a group of T cells that appear to have already recognised the tumour. These cells, with potential tumour-killing activity, are sitting on the tumour, but they need the drug to kick them into action.”

The ADAPTeR trial is sponsored by The Royal Marsden and partly funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Cancer Research UK.

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