Cracking the Code: Optimizing Immunotherapy Success.
Immunotherapy has transformed cancer treatment, but not all patients benefit equally from checkpoint inhibitors. A recent study out of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) unveils a crucial driver of this diminished response to checkpoint inhibitors – intratumoral genetic heterogeneity. While it was once thought that simply a higher number of mutations signaled a better response to immunotherapy, this research highlights it is rather the homogeneous spread of mutations within a tumour that is the real game-changer.
In their mouse models, the MIT team found that tumours with high mutational loads failed to respond to checkpoint inhibitors when the mutations were heterogeneous, or diverse, between each cell within a tumour (subclonal). These diverse mutations couldn't provide sufficient antigen targets for T cells, resulting in a weak immune response. In contrast, tumour cells with more uniform mutations (clonal) exhibited a stronger T-cell response, showcasing the significance of mutational homogeneity.
As we continue to unravel cancer's complexities, personalized treatments based on the diversity of mutations offer new hope for more effective therapies and improved patient outcomes.
Written by Karamjeet Singh, PhD