Immune Cell Profiling of Peripheral Blood as Signature for Response During Checkpoint Inhibition Across Cancer Types

Vinicius Araujo B. de Lima*, Morten Hansen, Iben Spanggaard, Kristoffer Rohrberg, Sine Reker Hadrup, Ulrik Lassen, Inge Marie Svane

*Corresponding author for this work

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Despite encouraging results with immune checkpoint inhibition (ICI), a large fraction of cancer patients still does not achieve clinical benefit. Finding predictive markers in the complexity of the tumor microenvironment is a challenging task and often requires invasive procedures. In our study, we looked for putative variables related to treatment benefit among immune cells in peripheral blood across different tumor types treated with ICIs. For that, we included 33 patients with different solid tumors referred to our clinical unit for ICI. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated at baseline, 6 and 20 weeks after treatment start. Characterization of immune cells was carried out by multi-color flow cytometry. Response to treatment was assessed radiologically by RECIST 1.1. Clinical outcome correlated with a shift towards an effector-like T cell phenotype, PD-1 expression by CD8+T cells, low levels of myeloid-derived suppressor cells and classical monocytes. Dendritic cells seemed also to play a role in terms of survival. From these findings, we hypothesized that patients responding to ICI had already at baseline an immune profile, here called ‘favorable immune periphery’, providing a higher chance of benefitting from ICI. We elaborated an index comprising cell types mentioned above. This signature correlated positively with the likelihood of benefiting from the treatment and ultimately with longer survival. Our study illustrates that patients responding to ICI seem to have a pre-existing immune profile in peripheral blood that favors good outcome. Exploring this signature can help to identify patients likely to achieve benefit from ICI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number558248
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was only possible due to financial support granted by The Danish Cancer Society (R149-A10123) and Preben & Anna Simonsens Fond (Grant number 021892-0009).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Araujo B. de Lima, Hansen, Spanggaard, Rohrberg, Reker Hadrup, Lassen and Svane.


  • Clinical outcome
  • Immune checkpoint inhibition
  • Immune signature
  • PBMCs
  • Prediction


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