An improved understanding of the anti-tumor CD8+ T cell response after checkpoint blockade would enable more informed and effective therapeutic strategies. Here we examined the dynamics of the effector response of CD8+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) after checkpoint blockade therapy. Bulk and single-cell RNA profiles of CD8+ TILs after combined Tim-3+PD-1 blockade in preclinical models revealed significant changes in the transcriptional profile of PD-1- TILs. These cells could be divided into subsets bearing characterstics of naive-, effector-, and memory-precursor-like cells. Effector- and memory-precursor-like TILs contained tumor-antigen-specific cells, exhibited proliferative and effector capacity, and expanded in response to different checkpoint blockade therapies across different tumor models. The memory-precursor-like subset shared features with CD8+ T cells associated with response to checkpoint blockade in patients and was compromised in the absence of Tcf7. Expression of Tcf7/Tcf1 was requisite for the efficacy of diverse immunotherapies, highlighting the importance of this transcriptional regulator in the development of effective CD8+ T cell responses upon immunotherapy.
Keywords: CD8(+) T cell; PD-1; Tim-3; cancer; checkpoint blockade; dysfunction; exhaustion; immunotherapy; memory; single-cell.
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