Oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC) is an aggressive malignancy with poor prognosis, and incidence is increasing rapidly in the Western world. Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells recognize bacterial metabolites and kill infected cells, yet their role in OAC is unknown. We aimed to elucidate the role of MAIT cells during cancer development by characterizing the frequency, phenotype, and function of MAIT cells in human blood and tissues, from OAC and its pre-malignant inflammatory condition Barrett's oesophagus (BO). Blood and tissues were phenotyped by flow cytometry and conditioned media from explanted tissue was used to model the effects of the tumor microenvironment on MAIT cell function. Associations were assessed between MAIT cell frequency, circulating inflammatory markers, and clinical parameters to elucidate the role of MAIT cells in inflammation driven cancer. MAIT cells were decreased in BO and OAC blood compared to healthy controls, but were increased in oesophageal tissues, compared to BO-adjacent tissue, and remained detectable after neo-adjuvant treatment. MAIT cells in tumors expressed CD8, PD-1, and NKG2A but lower NKG2D than BO cohorts. MAIT cells produced less IFN-γ and TNF-α in the presence of tumor-conditioned media. OAC cell line viability was reduced upon exposure to expanded MAIT cells. Serum levels of chemokine IP-10 were inversely correlated with MAIT cell frequency in both tumors and blood. MAIT cells were higher in the tumors of node-negative patients, but were not significantly associated with other clinical parameters. This study demonstrates that OAC tumors are infiltrated by MAIT cells, a type of CD8 T cell featuring immune checkpoint expression and cytotoxic potential. These findings may have implications for immunotherapy and immune scoring approaches.
Keywords: Barrett's Oesophagus; MAIT cells; PD-1; cancer immunology; oesophageal adenocarcinoma; tumor microenvironment.