Humoral immune responses: Unsung heroes of the war on cancer

Semin Immunol. 2020 Jun;49:101419. doi: 10.1016/j.smim.2020.101419. Epub 2020 Nov 9.


Solid cancers progress from primordial lesions through complex interactions between tumor-promoting and anti-tumor immune cell types, ultimately leading to the orchestration of humoral and T cell adaptive immune responses, albeit in an immunosuppressive environment. B cells infiltrating most established tumors have been associated with a dual role: Some studies have associated antibodies produced by tumor-associated B cells with the promotion of regulatory activities on myeloid cells, and also with direct immunosuppression through the production of IL-10, IL-35 or TGF-β. In contrast, recent studies in multiple human malignancies identify B cell responses with delayed malignant progression and coordinated T cell protective responses. This includes the elusive role of Tertiary Lymphoid Structures identified in many human tumors, where the function of B cells remains unknown. Here, we discuss emerging data on the dual role of B cell responses in the pathophysiology of human cancer, providing a perspective on future directions and possible novel interventions to restore the coordinated action of both branches of the adaptive immune response, with the goal of maximizing immunotherapeutic effectiveness.

Keywords: B cell; Cancer antibodies; Tertiary lymphoid structure; Tumor immunology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Management
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral*
  • Immunomodulation
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines