Dynamics of Melanoma-Associated Epitope-Specific CD8+ T Cells in the Blood Correlate With Clinical Outcome Under PD-1 Blockade

Front Immunol. 2022 Jul 7;13:906352. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.906352. eCollection 2022.


Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) is standard-of-care for patients with metastatic melanoma. It may re-invigorate T cells recognizing tumors, and several tumor antigens have been identified as potential targets. However, little is known about the dynamics of tumor antigen-specific T cells in the circulation, which might provide valuable information on ICB responses in a minimally invasive manner. Here, we investigated individual signatures composed of up to 167 different melanoma-associated epitope (MAE)-specific CD8+ T cells in the blood of stage IV melanoma patients before and during anti-PD-1 treatment, using a peptide-loaded multimer-based high-throughput approach. Additionally, checkpoint receptor expression patterns on T cell subsets and frequencies of myeloid-derived suppressor cells and regulatory T cells were quantified by flow cytometry. Regression analysis using the MAE-specific CD8+ T cell populations was applied to identify those that correlated with overall survival (OS). The abundance of MAE-specific CD8+ T cell populations, as well as their dynamics under therapy, varied between patients. Those with a dominant increase of these T cell populations during PD-1 ICB had a longer OS and progression-free survival than those with decreasing or balanced signatures. Patients with a dominantly increased MAE-specific CD8+ T cell signature also exhibited an increase in TIM-3+ and LAG-3+ T cells. From these results, we created a model predicting improved/reduced OS by combining data on dynamics of the three most informative MAE-specific CD8+ T cell populations. Our results provide insights into the dynamics of circulating MAE-specific CD8+ T cell populations during ICB, and should contribute to a better understanding of biomarkers of response and anti-cancer mechanisms.

Keywords: T cells; checkpoint blockade; dextramer; melanoma; melanoma-associated antigen; regression analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Epitopes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / drug therapy
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor* / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Epitopes
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor