The variety of proteins on immune cells within a lung tumour can predict whether the cancer will come back after surgery.
Immune cells called T cells recognize and fight cancer using surface proteins called T-cell receptors (TCRs). Each receptor identifies a specific protein on the surface of cancer cells. Jianjun Zhang at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and his colleagues took samples from 11 people with lung cancer and sequenced TCR genes in multiple locations within individual tumours. They found that different regions contained different types of TCR. Tumours targeted by a wider variety of these receptors were more likely to recur after surgery.
The researchers suspect that these cancers contain a greater variety of recent genetic mutations, making them more difficult for the immune system to recognize and destroy.