It is now admitted that the immune system plays a major role in tumor control. Besides the existence of tumor-specific T cells and B cells, many studies have demonstrated that high numbers of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes are associated with good clinical outcome. In addition, not only the density but also the organization of tumor-infiltrating immune cells has been shown to determine patient survival. Indeed, more and more studies describe the development within the tumor microenvironment of tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS), whose presence has a positive impact on tumor prognosis. TLS are transient ectopic lymphoid aggregates displaying the same organization and functionality as canonical secondary lymphoid organs, with T-cell-rich and B-cell-rich areas that are sites for the differentiation of effector and memory T cells and B cells. However, factors favoring the emergence of such structures within tumors still need to be fully characterized. In this review, we survey the state of the art of what is known about the general organization, induction, and functionality of TLS during chronic inflammation, and more especially in cancer, with a particular focus on the B-cell compartment. We detail the role played by TLS B cells in anti-tumor immunity, both as antigen-presenting cells and tumor antigen-specific antibody-secreting cells, and raise the question of the capacity of chemotherapeutic and immunotherapeutic agents to induce the development of TLS within tumors. Finally, we explore how to take advantage of our knowledge on TLS B cells to develop new therapeutic tools.
Keywords: B cell; anti-tumor immunity; antibody; biomarker; cancer; dendritic cell; immunotherapy; tertiary lymphoid structure.