Trial watch: Prognostic and predictive value of the immune infiltrate in cancer

Oncoimmunology. 2012 Nov 1;1(8):1323-1343. doi: 10.4161/onci.22009.


Solid tumors are constituted of a variety of cellular components, including bona fide malignant cells as well as endothelial, structural and immune cells. On one hand, the tumor stroma exerts major pro-tumorigenic and immunosuppressive functions, reflecting the capacity of cancer cells to shape the microenvironment to satisfy their own metabolic and immunological needs. On the other hand, there is a component of tumor-infiltrating leucocytes (TILs) that has been specifically recruited in the attempt to control tumor growth. Along with the recognition of the critical role played by the immune system in oncogenesis, tumor progression and response to therapy, increasing attention has been attracted by the potential prognostic and/or predictive role of the immune infiltrate in this setting. Data from large clinical studies demonstrate indeed that a robust infiltration of neoplastic lesions by specific immune cell populations, including (but not limited to) CD8(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes, Th1 and Th17 CD4(+) T cells, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, and M1 macrophages constitutes an independent prognostic indicator in several types of cancer. Conversely, high levels of intratumoral CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) regulatory T cells, Th2 CD4(+) T cells, myeloid-derived suppressor cells, M2 macrophages and neutrophils have frequently been associated with dismal prognosis. So far, only a few studies have addressed the true predictive potential of TILs in cancer patients, generally comforting the notion that-at least in some clinical settings-the immune infiltrate can reliably predict if a specific patient will respond to therapy or not. In this Trial Watch, we will summarize the results of clinical trials that have evaluated/are evaluating the prognostic and predictive value of the immune infiltrate in the context of solid malignancies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't