T cell exhaustion: from pathophysiological basics to tumor immunotherapy

Cell Commun Signal. 2017 Jan 5;15(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s12964-016-0160-z.


The immune system is capable of distinguishing between danger- and non-danger signals, thus inducing either an appropriate immune response against pathogens and cancer or inducing self-tolerance to avoid autoimmunity and immunopathology. One of the mechanisms that have evolved to prevent destruction by the immune system, is to functionally silence effector T cells, termed T cell exhaustion, which is also exploited by viruses and cancers for immune escape In this review, we discuss some of the phenotypic markers associated with T cell exhaustion and we summarize current strategies to reinvigorate exhausted T cells by blocking these surface marker using monoclonal antibodies.

Keywords: Cancer; Immunotherapy; PD-1; PD-L1; T cell exhaustion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Receptors, Immunologic