Chronic immunosuppression promotes nonmelanocytic squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) after kidney transplantation. Adaptive and innate immunity play a key role controlling tumor growth and are influenced by different immunosuppressive agents. We hypothesized that functional impairment of tumor-specific T cell responses due to calcineurin inhibitors (CNI) could contribute to SCC development, whereas conversion to mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitors (mTOR-i) could recover this protective immune response.Methods
Peripheral tumor-specific T cell responses against main SCC-derived antigens using the IFN-γ enzyme-linked immunospot assay and intratumor (IT) and circulating immune phenotypes (CD4 + T, CD8 + T, CD20 + B, CD56 + NK, FOXP3 + regulatory T [Treg] cells) were explored in a cross-sectional analysis in 59 kidney transplant patients with SCC on CNI (KT-CNI-SCC) or mTOR-i (KT-mTORi-SCC), 25 nontransplants developing SCC (NoKT-SCC) and 6 healthy controls. Moreover, 25 KT-CNI-SCC were switched to mTOR-i and evaluated after 12 months.Results
Kidney transplant patients showed lower IT infiltrates and tumor-specific T cell responses than NoKT-SCC, and intratumoral and circulating FOXP3 + Treg cells were higher in KT-mTORi-SCC (P < 0.05). Tumor-specific T cell responses were significantly lower in KT-CNI-SCC than KT-mTORi-SCC and NoKT-SCC and predicted SCC relapses (area under the curve = 0.837; P < 0.05). One-year after mTOR-i conversion, a significant increase in FOXP3 + Treg cell numbers and tumor-specific T cell responses were observed, reaching similar levels than KT-mTORi-SCC and NoKT-SCC patients.Conclusions
Tumor-specific T cell responses are strongly impaired in CNI-treated patients but recover after mTOR-i conversion, reducing SCC relapses.