Single-Cell Transcriptome Analysis Reveals Gene Signatures Associated with T-cell Persistence Following Adoptive Cell Therapy

Cancer Immunol Res. 2019 Nov;7(11):1824-1836. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-19-0299. Epub 2019 Sep 4.


Adoptive cell therapy (ACT) using tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) can mediate responses in some patients with metastatic epithelial cancer. Identifying gene signatures associated with successful ACT might enable the development of improved therapeutic approaches. The persistence of transferred T cells in the peripheral blood is one indication of clinical effectiveness, but many T-cell and host factors may influence T-cell persistence. To limit these variables, we previously studied a patient with metastatic colorectal cancer treated with polyclonal TILs targeting the KRAS(G12D) hotspot mutation, who experienced a partial response for 9 months. Three dominant clonotypes specifically recognizing KRAS(G12D) epitopes were identified, but we found that only two clonotypes persisted 40 days after ACT. Because of these findings, in this study, we performed the single-cell transcriptome analysis of the infused TILs. The analysis revealed a total of 472 genes that were differentially expressed between clonotypes 9.1-NP and 9.2-P single cells, and 528 genes between 9.1-NP and 10-P. Following these clonotypes in the peripheral blood after ACT, the gene expression patterns changed, but IL7R, ITGB1, KLF2, and ZNF683 remained expressed in the persistent 9.2-P and 10-P cells, compared with the nonpersistent 9.1-NP cells. In addition, four autologous TILs, which were used for treatment but persisted poorly 1 month after ACT, did not express the gene profiles associated with persistence. These results suggest that certain TIL populations possess a unique gene expression profile that can lead to the persistence of T cells. Thus, this single-patient study provides insight into how to improve ACT for solid cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Clone Cells / immunology
  • Clone Cells / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / transplantation
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Transcription Factors