Dysfunctional T cells present in malignant lesions are characterized by a sustained and highly diverse expression of inhibitory receptors, also referred to as immune checkpoints. Yet, their relative functional significance in different cancer types remains incompletely understood. In this study, we provide a comprehensive characterization of the diversity and expression patterns of inhibitory receptors on tumor-infiltrating T cells from patients with non–small cell lung cancer. In spite of the large heterogeneity observed in the amount of PD-1, Tim-3, CTLA-4, LAG-3, and BTLA expressed on intratumoral CD8+ T cells from 32 patients, a clear correlation was established between increased expression of these inhibitory coreceptors and progression of the disease. Notably, the latter was accompanied by a progressively impaired capacity of T cells to respond to polyclonal activation. Coexpression of several inhibitory receptors was gradually acquired, with early PD-1 and late LAG-3/BTLA expression. PD-1 blockade was able to restore T-cell function only in a subset of patients. A high percentage of PD-1hi T cells was correlated with poor restoration of T-cell function upon PD-1 blockade. Of note, PD-1hi expression marked a particularly dysfunctional T-cell subset characterized by coexpression of multiple inhibitory receptors and thus may assist in identifying patients likely to respond to inhibitory receptor–specific antibodies. Overall, these data may provide a framework for future personalized T-cell–based therapies aiming at restoration of tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte effector functions. Cancer Immunol Res; 1–12. ©2015 AACR.
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Cancer Immunology Research Online (http://cancerimmunolres.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received April 10, 2015.
- Revision received June 9, 2015.
- Accepted July 1, 2015.
- ©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.