The mechanisms regulating exhaustion of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) and responsiveness to PD-1 blockade remain partly unknown. In human ovarian cancer, we show that tumor-specific CD8+ TIL accumulate in tumor islets, where they engage antigen and upregulate PD-1, which restrains their functions. Intraepithelial PD-1+CD8+ TIL can be, however, polyfunctional. PD-1+ TIL indeed exhibit a continuum of exhaustion states, with variable levels of CD28 costimulation, which is provided by antigen-presenting cells (APC) in intraepithelial tumor myeloid niches. CD28 costimulation is associated with improved effector fitness of exhausted CD8+ TIL and is required for their activation upon PD-1 blockade, which also requires tumor myeloid APC. Exhausted TIL lacking proper CD28 costimulation in situ fail to respond to PD-1 blockade, and their response may be rescued by local CTLA-4 blockade and tumor APC stimulation via CD40L.
Keywords: CD28; CD40; CTLA-4; PD-1; TIL; dendritic cell; exhaustion; myeloid niche; ovarian; tumor.
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