Identification of a small-molecule Tim-3 inhibitor to potentiate T cell-mediated antitumor immunotherapy in preclinical mouse models

Sci Transl Med. 2023 Nov 15;15(722):eadg6752. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.adg6752. Epub 2023 Nov 15.


T cell immunoglobulin and mucin-containing molecule 3 (Tim-3), expressed in dysfunctional and exhausted T cells, has been widely acknowledged as a promising immune checkpoint target for tumor immunotherapy. Here, using a strategy combining virtual and functional screening, we identified a compound named ML-T7 that targets the FG-CC' cleft of Tim-3, a highly conserved binding site of phosphatidylserine (PtdSer) and carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1). ML-T7 enhanced the survival and antitumor activity of primary CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and human chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells and reduced their exhaustion in vitro and in vivo. In addition, ML-T7 promoted NK cells' killing activity and DC antigen-presenting capacity, consistent with the reported activity of Tim-3. ML-T7 strengthened DCs' functions through both Tim-3 and Tim-4, which is consistent with the fact that Tim-4 contains a similar FG-CC' loop. Intraperitoneal dosing of ML-T7 showed comparable tumor inhibitory effects to the Tim-3 blocking antibody. ML-T7 reduced syngeneic tumor progression in both wild-type and Tim-3 humanized mice and alleviated the immunosuppressive microenvironment. Furthermore, combined ML-T7 and anti-PD-1 therapy had greater therapeutic efficacy than monotherapy in mice, supporting further development of ML-T7 for tumor immunotherapy. Our study demonstrates a potential small molecule for selectively blocking Tim-3 and warrants further study.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Hepatitis A Virus Cellular Receptor 2* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Hepatitis A Virus Cellular Receptor 2