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Front Oncol. 2020 Feb 14;10:89. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2020.00089. eCollection 2020.

Impact of Radiochemotherapy on Immune Cell Subtypes in High-Grade Glioma Patients.

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Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Center of Oncology, Geneva University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.
Translational Research Center for Oncohematology, Department of Internal Medicine Specialties, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Department of Oncology, Geneva University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.
Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Division of Neurosurgery, Geneva University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.


Glioblastoma is a dreadful disease with very poor prognosis, median overall survival being <2 years despite standard-of-care treatment. This has led to the development of alternative strategies, among which immunotherapy is being actively tested. In particular, many clinical trials of therapeutic vaccination using peptides or tumor cells are ongoing. A major issue in implementing therapeutic vaccines in patients with high-grade glioma is that immune responses have to be elicited in the context of immunosuppressive treatments. Indeed, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and steroids, which are part of the standard of care for patients with glioblastoma, are known to deplete leukocytes. Whether lymphopenia is beneficial or detrimental to elicitation of efficient immune responses is still debated. Here, in order to determine the impact of standard radiochemotherapy on immune cell subsets, we analyzed the phenotype and function of immune populations in 25 patients with high-grade glioma along concomitant radiochemotherapy and adjuvant chemotherapy with temozolomide. Thirteen healthy individuals were studied along the same period. We show that absolute T and B cell counts are reduced upon concomitant radiochemotherapy. Importantly, T cell counts were not restored long-term after discontinuation of treatment. In addition, the percentage of T regulatory cells among CD4 T cells was increased during the same period and was not decreased upon treatment discontinuation. Finally, we show that the ability of T cells to proliferate is transiently reduced after concomitant radiochemotherapy but is restored at the time of adjuvant TMZ cycles. Although not experimentally validated, transient reduction in proliferation associated with strong lymphopenia during radiochemotherapy may suggest that vaccine-induced T cell stimulation would be suboptimal in that period and that therapeutic vaccination should be performed outside radiochemotherapy administration. In addition, strategies aiming at depleting Treg cells should be implemented in future trials.


cancer vaccines; glioma; immune subsets; immunotherapy; lymphopenia; radiotherapy; temozolomide

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