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J Exp Med. 2010 Sep 27;207(10):2175-86. doi: 10.1084/jem.20100637. Epub 2010 Sep 6.

Upregulation of Tim-3 and PD-1 expression is associated with tumor antigen-specific CD8+ T cell dysfunction in melanoma patients.

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


The paradoxical coexistence of spontaneous tumor antigen-specific immune responses with progressive disease in cancer patients furthers the need to dissect the molecular pathways involved in tumor-induced T cell dysfunction. In patients with advanced melanoma, we have previously shown that the cancer-germline antigen NY-ESO-1 stimulates spontaneous NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T cells that up-regulate PD-1 expression. We also observed that PD-1 regulates NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T cell expansion upon chronic antigen stimulation. In the present study, we show that a fraction of PD-1(+) NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T cells in patients with advanced melanoma up-regulates Tim-3 expression and that Tim-3(+)PD-1(+) NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T cells are more dysfunctional than Tim-3(-)PD-1(+) and Tim-3(-)PD-1(-) NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T cells, producing less IFN-γ, TNF, and IL-2. Tim-3-Tim-3L blockade enhanced cytokine production by NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T cells upon short ex vivo stimulation with cognate peptide, thus enhancing their functional capacity. In addition, Tim-3-Tim-3L blockade enhanced cytokine production and proliferation of NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T cells upon prolonged antigen stimulation and acted in synergy with PD-1-PD-L1 blockade. Collectively, our findings support the use of Tim-3-Tim-3L blockade together with PD-1-PD-L1 blockade to reverse tumor-induced T cell exhaustion/dysfunction in patients with advanced melanoma.

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