Journal: Nature Medicine
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‘Exhausted’ cells may be invigorated against cancer
© JUAN GAERTNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty
The best way to differentiate between cancer-fighting T cells in lung tumours may be to look at the number of immune-dampening ‘checkpoint’ molecules on the cell surface.
A team that included scientists from Roche’s Pharmaceutical Research and Early Development studied biopsy material from patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. To their surprise, they found that T cells crowded with PD-1 checkpoint proteins on their surfaces — usually a sign of immune ‘exhaustion’ — had the greatest capacity to recognize tumour tissue.
The PD-1–enriched T cells showed many signs of dysfunction, yet they expressed a key signalling molecule that recruited other immune cells to the tumour surroundings. This could explain why the presence of PD-1–elevated T cells was strongly predictive of how patients respond to cancer immunotherapy.
This unique T cell population thus offers a promising new biomarker for identifying patients most likely to benefit from the drug-treatment strategy.
- Nature Medicine 24, 994–1004 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41591-018-0057-z