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ELCC 2017: Blood Biomarkers May Shed Light on Patients Most Likely to Benefit From Immunotherapy

By: Meg Barbor, MPH
Posted: Monday, May 22, 2017

White blood cell count may predict response to lung cancer immunotherapy, according to a study presented by Marcello Tiseo, MD, PhD, of the University Hospital of Parma, Italy, and colleagues at the recent European Lung Cancer Conference (ELCC). Their findings revealed that a greater number and concentration of natural killer cells at baseline and an increase in the number of natural killer cells during treatment were associated with response to the immune checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab. Responders to nivolumab also had a greater number and concentration of CD8–positive T cells that expressed programmed cell death protein 1.

The study included 54 patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who received nivolumab every 14 days. The researchers compared white blood cell counts between responders and nonresponders to nivolumab. They found that white blood cell counts at baseline and during therapy did indeed predict whether patients would respond to nivolumab treatment.

Programmed cell death ligand 1 expression in tumor tissue biopsies is used to select patients for treatment, but it is not completely accurate, according to Dr. Tiseo. “Biomarkers in the blood are easier to obtain and may be better indicators of immune response,” he added.