Selection of CD8+PD-1+ Lymphocytes in Fresh Human Melanomas Enriches for Tumor-reactive T Cells

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CD8+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in human melanomas express high levels of PD-1 and are functionally impaired. However, adoptive cell therapy using in vitro-expanded TIL can be a highly effective therapy for patients with advanced melanoma. This discrepancy led us to further analyze the CD8+PD-1+ TILs. We found that the percentage of PD-1−expressing CD8+ T cells was higher in the tumor digests that generate tumor-reactive TILs after in vitro culture in interleukin-2 (P=0.0007). Also sorted and expanded CD8+PD-1+ T cells in tumor digests showed much higher tumor-specific interferon-γ production compared with CD8+PD-1 T cells. These results suggested that tumor-specific CD8+ T cells in melanoma tumor digests are largely PD-1+, and this population can recover function after culturing in interleukin-2. PD-1 has been reported as an inhibitory receptor on T cells. We found that the in vitro functional suppression of cultured-TILs from native levels of PD-L1 expression on melanomas was minimal, and moreover expression level of PD-1 on CD8+ tumor-specific TILs decreased during the culture. As a consequence, the PD-1 receptor can be a useful biomarker for enriching tumor-specific T cells from fresh melanomas.

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