In a recent study titled “Objective Measurement and Clinical Significance of TILs in Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer” and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a research team from Yale has designed a novel assay that allows the measurement of anti-tumor immune activity in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tumors. This could allow a more precise determination of which patients will respond to immune therapy drugs.
This tool can measure the populations of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), a group of white blood cells that infiltrates the tumor microenvironment and helps mount an anti-tumoral immune response. High levels of TILs in tumor tissues are usually associated with an improved treatment outcome.
This new assay distinguishes itself from existing techniques due to its objective, quantitative and reproducible characteristics.
The team used multiplexed quantitative fluorescence (QIF) to measure the levels of CD3, CD8, and CD20 in 552 NSCLC from two independent collections represented in tissue microarrays. Association of TILs with clinical parameters was determined using univariate and multivariable analyses.
“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,” Dr. Kurt Schalper, associate research scientist in Yale School of Medicine and director of the Translational Immuno-oncology Laboratory at Yale Cancer Center, said in a news release. “We believe that this method could help determine which patients are more likely to benefit from new immune checkpoint therapies.”
The results showed that increased levels of CD3 and CD8 + TILs were linked to a better outcome in NSCLC. However, only CD8 T cells are independent from other prognostic variables.
The capacity to specifically measure the properties of the anti-tumor immune responses could result in new immunostimulatory therapies, like anti CTLA-4 (ipilimumab) or PD-1/PD-L1 (nivolumab), that have been proving its efficiency in several clinical studies of multiple types of cancer. Future research will aim to validate these results and how they can be applied into clinical practice.