T-cell exhaustion signatures vary with tumor type and are severe in glioblastoma

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Purpose: T-cell dysfunction is a hallmark of glioblastoma (GBM). Although anergy and tolerance have been well characterized, T-cell exhaustion remains relatively unexplored. Exhaustion, characterized in part by the upregulation of multiple immune checkpoints, is a known contributor to failures amid immune checkpoint blockade, a strategy that has lacked success thus far in GBM. This study is among the first to examine, and credential as bona fide, exhaustion among T cells infiltrating human and murine GBM. Experimental Design: Tumor-infiltrating and peripheral blood lymphocytes (TILs and PBLs) were isolated from patients with GBM. Levels of exhaustion-associated inhibitory receptors and poststimulation levels of the cytokines IFNg, TNFa, and IL2 were assessed by flow cytometry. T-cell receptor Vb chain expansion was also assessed in TILs and PBLs. Similar analysis was extended to TILs isolated from intracranial and subcutaneous immunocom-petent murine models of glioma, breast, lung, and melanoma cancers. Results: Our data reveal that GBM elicits a particularly severe T-cell exhaustion signature among infiltrating T cells characterized by: (1) prominent upregulation of multiple immune checkpoints; (2) stereotyped T-cell transcriptional programs matching classical virus-induced exhaustion; and (3) notable T-cell hyporesponsiveness in tumor-specific T cells. Exhaustion signatures differ predictably with tumor identity, but remain stable across manipulated tumor locations. Conclusions: Distinct cancers possess similarly distinct mechanisms for exhausting T cells. The poor TIL function and severe exhaustion observed in GBM highlight the need to better understand this tumor-imposed mode of T-cell dysfunction in order to formulate effective immunotherapeutic strategies targeting GBM.




Woroniecka, K., Chongsathidkiet, P., Rhodin, K., Kemeny, H., Dechant, C., Harrison Farber, S., … Fecci, P. E. (2018). T-cell exhaustion signatures vary with tumor type and are severe in glioblastoma. Clinical Cancer Research, 24(17), 4175–4186. https://doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-17-1846

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