Urinary bladder cancer (UBC) is one of the most frequent cancer diseases with 380 000 new cases diagnosed worldwide and about 150 000 deaths yearly. To dissect the role of T helper (Th) cell responses in UBC we investigate the T helper cell subpopulations; Th1, Th2, Th17 and T regulatory cells (Tregs) and their lineage commitment in draining (sentinel) and non-draining lymph nodes and blood from patients subjected to transurethral resection of the bladder (TUR-B) and/or Cystectomy. By analysing methylation in signature genes IFNG, IL13, IL17a and FOXP3 we measure the epigenetic stability of these T helper cells.
In most patients IFNG is more demethylated in sentinel nodes compared to non-sentinel nodes and blood, suggesting a Th1 activation in nodes in contact with the tumor. Aside from that, the distribution of subpopulations in all tissues investigated is highly variable in between patients. All subsets are represented, although there seem to be no, or little Th17 cells in nodes. After neoadjuvant treatment (given in between the TUR-B and cystectomy) a temporary increase in methylation of IFNG locus is seen in blood, which could suggest a translocation of activated Th cells from the blood to the tumor area, but also de novo synthesis of Th cells.
By analysing the intra-patient variations in distribution and relative amount of Th cell subpopulations in blood and sentinel nodes we hope to draw conclusions on differences in outcome. The long-term goal is to be able to identify which patients could respond well to immune modulatory treatments.