Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is associated with suppression of the B cell-centered immune landscape in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

Luise Rupp, Ina Dietsche, Maximilian Kießler, Ulrich Sommer, Alexander Muckenhuber, Katja Steiger, Casper W.F. van Eijck, Leonard Richter, Rouzanna Istvanffy, Carsten Jäger, Helmut Friess, Casper H.J. van Eijck, Ihsan Ekin Demir, Carmen Mota Reyes, Marc Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is typically diagnosed at advanced stages and associated with early distant metastasis and poor survival. Besides clinical factors, the tumor microenvironment (TME) emerged as a crucial determinant of patient survival and therapy response in many tumors, including PDAC. Thus, the presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and the formation of tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS) is associated with longer survival in PDAC. Although neoadjuvant therapy (NeoTx) has improved the management of locally advanced tumors, detailed insight into its effect on various TME components is limited. While a remodeling towards a proinflammatory state was reported for PDAC-infiltrating T cells, the effect of NeoTx on B cell subsets, including plasma cells, and TLS formation is widely unclear. We thus investigated the frequency, composition, and spatial distribution of PDAC-infiltrating B cells in primary resected (PR) versus neoadjuvant-treated patients using a novel multiplex immunohistochemistry panel. The NeoTx group displayed significantly lower frequencies of pan B cells, GC B cells, plasmablasts, and plasma cells, accompanied by a reduced abundance of TLS. This finding was supported by bulk RNA-sequencing analysis of an independent fresh frozen tissue cohort, which revealed that major B cell pathways were downregulated in the NeoTx group. We further observed that plasma cells frequently formed aggregates that localized close to TLS and that TLS+ patients displayed significantly higher plasma cell frequencies compared to TLS- patients in the PR group. Additionally, high densities of CD20+ intratumoral B cells were significantly associated with longer overall survival in the PR group. While CD20+ B cells held no prognostic value for NeoTx patients, an increased frequency of proliferating CD20+Ki67+ B cells emerged as an independent prognostic factor for longer survival in the NeoTx group. These results indicate that NeoTx differentially affects PDAC-infiltrating immune cells and may have detrimental effects on the existing B cell landscape and the formation of TLS. Gaining further insight into the underlying molecular mechanisms is crucial to overcome the intrinsic immunotherapy resistance of PDAC and develop novel strategies to improve the long-term outcome of PDAC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1378190
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • B cells
  • neoadjuvant chemotherapy
  • pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
  • plasma cells
  • tertiary lymphoid structures
  • tumor immune contexture


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