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p21 Prevents the Exhaustion of CD4+ T Cells Within the Antitumor Immune Response Against Colorectal Cancer

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Kubánková,  Markéta
Guck Division, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Max Planck Society;
Max-Planck-Zentrum für Physik und Medizin, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Max Planck Society;

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Guck,  Jochen
Guck Division, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Max Planck Society;
Max-Planck-Zentrum für Physik und Medizin, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Max Planck Society;

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Gastroenterology 2024 Thoma.pdf
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Citation

Thoma, O.-M., Naschberger, E., Kubánková, M., Larafa, I., Kramer, V., Menchicchi, B., et al. (2024). p21 Prevents the Exhaustion of CD4+ T Cells Within the Antitumor Immune Response Against Colorectal Cancer. Gastroenterology, 166(2), 284-297. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2023.09.017.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-CA2B-0
Abstract
BACKGROUND & AIMS: T cells are crucial for the antitumor response against colorectal cancer (CRC). T-cell reactivity to CRC is nevertheless limited by T-cell exhaustion. However, molecular mechanisms regulating T-cell exhaustion are only poorly understood. METHODS: We investigated the functional role of cyclin-dependent kinase 1a (Cdkn1a or p21) in cluster of differentiation (CD) 4+ T cells using murine CRC models. Furthermore, we evaluated the expression of p21 in patients with stage I to IV CRC. In vitro coculture models were used to understand the effector function of p21-deficient CD4+ T cells. RESULTS: We observed that the activation of cell cycle regulator p21 is crucial for CD4+ T-cell cytotoxic function and that p21 deficiency in type 1 helper T cells (Th1) leads to increased tumor growth in murine CRC. Similarly, low p21 expression in CD4+ T cells infiltrated into tumors of CRC patients is associated with reduced cancer-related survival. In mouse models of CRC, p21-deficient Th1 cells show signs of exhaustion, where an accumulation of effector/effector memory T cells and CD27/CD28 loss are predominant. Immune reconstitution of tumor-bearing Rag1−/− mice using ex vivo-treated p21-deficient T cells with palbociclib, an inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6, restored cytotoxic function and prevented exhaustion of p21-deficient CD4+ T cells as a possible concept for future immunotherapy of human disease. CONCLUSIONS: Our data reveal the importance of p21 in controlling the cell cycle and preventing exhaustion of Th1 cells. Furthermore, we unveil the therapeutic potential of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors such as palbociclib to reduce T-cell exhaustion for future treatment of patients with colorectal cancer.