Immune Biomarkers in the Peripheral Blood and Tumor Microenvironment of Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma Patients in Relation to Tumor Burden and Response to Treatment

Hemasphere. 2022 Oct 26;6(11):e794. doi: 10.1097/HS9.0000000000000794. eCollection 2022 Nov.


In classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL), the malignant cells represent only a small fraction of the tumor. Yet, they orchestrate a lymphocyte-dominated tumor microenvironment (TME) that supports their survival and growth. The systemic effects of this local immunomodulation are not fully elucidated. Here, we aimed at characterizing circulating lymphocytes and plasma proteins in relation to clinical parameters and treatment effect. Peripheral blood (PB) samples were obtained from 48 consecutive patients at diagnosis and at 2 time points after successful primary treatment. Single-cell suspensions were prepared from lymph node (LN) biopsies obtained for routine diagnostic purposes. Twenty healthy individuals were included as controls. Cells from PB and LN were analyzed by flow cytometry, and plasma proteins by Proximity Extension Assay. We found that the frequencies of T and B cells positively correlated between the LN and the PB compartments. Compared to controls, cHL patients had higher frequencies of proliferating T cells as well as higher expression of programmed death (PD)-1 and cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen (CTLA)-4 in circulating T cells, and lower naive T-cell frequencies. Advanced-stage patients had fewer NK cells with a functionally impaired phenotype. Differences in the immune profile were observed in patients with a high tumor burden and with high inflammation, respectively. Most of these deviations disappeared after standard first-line treatment. Patients who received radiotherapy involving the mediastinum had low T-cell counts for a prolonged period. Our findings suggest that the immunomodulation of lymphocytes in the TME of cHL might affect immune biomarkers in the PB.