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Journal Article

Heterogeneity of exhausted T cells in the tumor microenvironment is linked to patient survival following resection in hepatocellular carcinoma


Sanin,  Pena David Estaban
Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Max Planck Society;

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Liu, F., Liu, W., Sanin, P. D. E., Jia, G., Tian, M., Wang, H., et al. (2020). Heterogeneity of exhausted T cells in the tumor microenvironment is linked to patient survival following resection in hepatocellular carcinoma. Oncoimmunology, 9, e17465573. doi:org/10.1080/2162402X.2020.1746573.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-E707-D
Despite the success of monotherapies based on blockade of programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) in human melanoma, most patients do not experience durable clinical benefit. T-cell infiltration and/or the presence of PD-L1 in tumors may be used as indicators of clinical response; However, recent studies reported that preexisting tumor-specific T cells may have limited reinvigoration capacity. Therefore, evaluating status of T cells of tumor-adjacent area and its impact on the prognosis are very important. Here, we examined 117 surgical samples from HCC patients for infiltration of exhausted T cell (Tex) including CD4<sup>+</sup>-Tex, CD8<sup>+<sup>-Tex and regulatory T cell (FOXP3<sup>+</sup>-Treg) in tumor and adjacent tissue. CD3<sup>+</sup>CD45RO<sup>+</sup>T cells were sorted from adjacent area or tumor core, then the clusters and heterogeneity of T cells were further interrogated by single-cell RNA sequencing. As a result, we suggested that abundance or location of T cell subsets is differentially correlate with long-term clinical outcome of HCC. In contrast with CD4<sup>+</sup>T or CD4<sup>+</sup>-Tex, the infiltration of CD8<sup>+</sup>T or CD8<sup>+</sup>-Tex cells was closely linked to overall or recurrence-free survival. FOXP3<sup>+</sup>-Treg is more predictive of early recurrence. Single-cell transcriptional analysis demonstrates the composition of CD4<sup>+</sup>-Tex, CD8<sup>+</sup>-Tex, and FOXP3<sup>+</sup>-Treg is shifted in tumor and adjacent tissue. Molecular profiles including genes coding checkpoint receptors, effector molecules are distinct between CD4<sup>+</sup>-Tex, CD8<sup>+</sup>-Tex, though some common features of CD4<sup>+</sup> and CD8<sup>+</sup> T cell exhaustion are revealed. In conclusion, we underline the heterogeneity and clinical relevance of Tex cells in HCC patients. A better understanding of Tex is critical for HCC monitoring and treatment.