Background: The positive role of CD8+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) has been well described but the prognostic value of CD4 T cell subsets remained to be investigated. In this study, we expanded TIL from surgically resected liver metastases of patients with CRC and characterized the phenotype and the prognostic value of expanded-CD4 T cells.
Methods: Liver metastases were surgically resected from 23 patients with CRC. Tumors were enzymatically digested and cultured in high dose of interleukin-2 for up to 5 weeks. T cell phenotype and reactivity of cultured-T cells were measured by flow cytometry and correlated with patients' clinical outcomes.
Results: We successfully expanded 21 over 23 TIL from liver metastases of patients with CRC. Interestingly, we distinguished two subsets of expanded T cells based on T cell immunoglobulin mucin domain-containing protein 3 (TIM-3) expression. Medians fold expansion of expanded T cells after rapid expansion protocol was higher in CD3+TIM-3low cultures. In an attempt to investigate the correlation between the phenotype of expanded CD4 T cells and clinical outcomes, we observed on one hand that the level of Tregs in culture as well as the expression of both PD1 and TIM-3 by expanded T cells was not correlated to the clinical outcomes. Interestingly, on the other hand, cultures containing high levels of Th17 cells were associated with a poor prognosis (p=0.0007).
Conclusions: Our data confirmed the presence of Th17 cells in expanded T cells from liver metastases. Among CD4 T cell characteristics investigated, TIM-3 but not programmed cell death protein 1 predicted the expansion capacity of TIL while only the Th17 phenotype showed correlation with patients' survival, suggesting a particular role of this T cell subset in CRC immune contexture.
Trial registration number: NCT02817178.
Keywords: CD4-positive t-lymphocytes; adaptive immunity; biomarkers; gastrointestinal neoplasms; lymphocytes; tumor; tumor-infiltrating.
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