High intratumoral plasma cells content in primary prostate cancer defines a subset of tumors with potential susceptibility to immune-based treatments

Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2023 Mar;26(1):105-112. doi: 10.1038/s41391-022-00547-0. Epub 2022 May 14.


Background: Data on advanced prostate cancer (PCa) suggest more prior systemic therapies might reduce tumor immune responsiveness. In treatment-naïve primary PCa, recent work correlated intratumoral plasma cell content with enhanced tumor immune-responsiveness. We sought to identify features of localized PCa at a high risk of recurrence following local treatment with high plasma cell content to help focus future immune-based neoadjuvant trials.

Methods: We performed retrospective analyses of molecular profiles from three independent cohorts of over 1300 prostate tumors. We used Wilcoxon Rank Sum to compare molecular pathways between tumors with high and low intratumoral plasma cell content and multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression analyses to assess metastasis-free survival.

Results: We validated an expression-based signature for intratumoral plasma cell content in 113 primary prostate tumors with both RNA-expression data and digital image quantification of CD138+ cells (plasma cell marker) based on immunohistochemisty. The signature showed castration-resistant tumors (n = 101) with more prior systemic therapies contained lower plasma cell content. In high-grade primary PCa, tumors with high plasma cell content were associated with increased predicted response to immunotherapy and decreased response to androgen-deprivation therapy. Master regulator analyses identified upregulated transcription factors implicated in immune (e.g. SKAP1, IL-16, and HCLS1), and B-cell activity (e.g. VAV1, SP140, and FLI-1) in plasma cell-high tumors. Master regulators overactivated in tumors with low plasma cell content were associated with shorter metastasis-free survival following radical prostatectomy.

Conclusions: Markers of plasma cell activity might be leveraged to augment clinical trial targeting and selection and better understand the potential for immune-based treatments in patients with PCa at a high risk of recurrence following local treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Plasma Cells* / pathology
  • Prostatectomy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Syndecan-1 / analysis
  • Up-Regulation


  • Syndecan-1