Researchers discover biomarkers that predict response to immunotherapy in skin carcinoma

  • IDIBELL researchers have discovered a mechanism by which tumor cells respond differentially to various immunotherapies and have identified biomarkers that predict the response to these drugs. 
  • Published in Nature Communications, this finding would allow personalizing the treatment of skin carcinoma and thus increase the patients’ quality of life. 

Skin squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer, with an expected diagnosed cases increase in the coming years. Although surgical excision is enough in most patients, some develop aggressive tumors with an unfavorable clinical prognosis. For these patients, anti-PD-1 immunotherapy has represented an important therapeutic advance, since these drugs enhance the antitumor activity of the patient’s immune system. However, it was not well understood why about half of the patients do not respond satisfactorily or acquire resistance after the initial treatment. This makes it a priority to develop biomarkers that help identify and select patients who will benefit most from treatment. 

This has been the aim of the study published in the journal Nature Communications and led by Drs. Laura Lorenzo-Sanz, also first author of the work, and Purificación Muñoz, head of the aging and cancer group at IDIBELL. With the collaboration of other institutions such as ICO and the Bellvitge Hospital, researchers have been able to describe how this carcinoma tumor cells interact and block the immune system’s action at different moments of tumor progression, adapting in a dynamic and plastic way, which allows the identification of the most effective treatments for each disease stage. 

“We have found biomarkers that predict tumor response to immunotherapy at different stages of progression, all using samples of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, head and neck, and melanoma. These biomarkers would allow us to predict the response to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy and would inform us which therapeutic option would be the most appropriate for each patient” comments Dr. Muñoz. 

In conclusion, and as Dr. Lorenzo-Sanz explains, “These results are promising and we trust that, once these conclusions have been validated in a larger number of patients, we can personalize the most appropriate therapeutic strategy for each patient and thus increase their expectancy and quality of life. 



The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. 

IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC). 

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