In melanoma, therapies with inhibitors to oncogenic BRAFV600E are highly effective but responses are often short-lived due to the emergence of drug-resistant tumor subpopulations. We describe here a mechanism of acquired drug resistance through the tumor microenvironment, which is mediated by human tumor-associated B cells. Human melanoma cells constitutively produce the growth factor FGF-2, which activates tumor-infiltrating B cells to produce the growth factor IGF-1. B-cell-derived IGF-1 is critical for resistance of melanomas to BRAF and MEK inhibitors due to emergence of heterogeneous subpopulations and activation of FGFR-3. Consistently, resistance of melanomas to BRAF and/or MEK inhibitors is associated with increased CD20 and IGF-1 transcript levels in tumors and IGF-1 expression in tumor-associated B cells. Furthermore, first clinical data from a pilot trial in therapy-resistant metastatic melanoma patients show anti-tumor activity through B-cell depletion by anti-CD20 antibody. Our findings establish a mechanism of acquired therapy resistance through tumor-associated B cells with important clinical implications.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology