Pro- and anti-tumour effects of B cells and antibodies in cancer: a comparison of clinical studies and preclinical models

Thomas V. Guy, Alexandra M. Terry, Holly A. Bolton, David G. Hancock, Elena Shklovskaya, Barbara Fazekas de St Groth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The primary immune role of B cells is to produce antibodies, but they can also influence T cell function via antigen presentation and, in some contexts, immune regulation. Whether their roles in tumour immunity are similar to those in other chronic immune responses such as autoimmunity and chronic infection, where both pro- and anti-inflammatory roles have been described, remains controversial. Many studies have aimed to define the role of B cells in antitumor immune responses, but despite this considerable body of work, it is not yet possible to predict how they will affect immunity to any given tumour. In many human cancers, the presence of tumour-infiltrating B cells and tumour-reactive antibodies correlates with extended patient survival, and this clinical observation is supported by data from some animal models. On the other hand, T cell responses can be adversely affected by B cell production of immunoregulatory cytokines, a phenomenon that has been demonstrated in humans and in animal models. The isotype and concentration of tumour-reactive antibodies may also influence tumour progression. Recruitment of B cells into tumours may directly reflect the subtype and strength of the anti-tumour T cell response. As the response becomes chronic, B cells may attenuate T cell responses in an attempt to decrease host damage, similar to their described role in chronic infection and autoimmunity. Understanding how B cell responses in cancer are related to the effectiveness of the overall anti-tumour response is likely to aid in the development of new therapeutic interventions against cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)885-896
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibodies
  • B cells
  • Clinical correlations
  • Tumour models


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