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New Immunotherapy Targets: B Cells


B cells play a vital role in the immune response against cancer.

B cells are immune system cells that help fight cancer. They’re not as famous as other immune cells – T cells, for instance – and, in fact, have been overlooked as a focus of immunotherapy. New research at The Brady is changing this.

Burles (Rusty) Johnson III, M.D., Ph.D., a clinical fellow in oncology, is investigating the functional role of B cells in bladder cancer.

“Although immunotherapy has improved responses in some patients with advanced bladder cancer, unfortunately these therapies do not significantly shrink tumors in most patients,” Johnson says. “Thus, we need to identify the mechanisms that are preventing immunotherapy from being as effective as it could be.” While most immune-related research in bladder cancer has focused on stimulating cancer attack by T cells, Johnson continues, “little research has focused on B cells.” B cells play a vital role in the immune response against cancer. “They can stimulate or inhibit anti-tumor immunity, depending on how the patient’s immune system responds to cancer growth.” Specifically, Johnson is looking to identify B cell subsets that block the immune response against cancer and, instead, help bladder cancer to grow.

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