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Scand J Immunol. 2019 Jun;89(6):e12765. doi: 10.1111/sji.12765. Epub 2019 Apr 10.

Circulating CD137+ CD8+ T cells accumulate along with increased functional regulatory T cells and thoracic tumour burden in lung cancer patients.

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Department of Medical Oncology, Beijing Chest Hospital, Beijing Tuberculosis and Thoracic Tumor Research Institute, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
Department of Central Laboratory, Beijing Key Laboratory for Drug Resistance Tuberculosis Research, Beijing Chest Hospital, Beijing Tuberculosis and Thoracic Tumor Research Institute, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.


CD137 is a promising target for immunostimulation strategies against cancer. Previous studies showed that CD137+ CD8+ T cells are enriched in antitumour effector T cells in both preclinical tumour models and cancer patients, but to date, such T cells in the blood of lung cancer patients have not been sufficiently investigated. In this study, circulating antigen-activated CD8+ T cell subsets, identified as CD137+ CD8+ or PD-1+ (programmed cell death protein 1) CD8+ , and regulatory T cells (Treg), identified as CD4+ CD25+ CD127low/- , in 40 untreated lung cancer patients and in 49 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HCs) were assessed by flow cytometry. Results were evaluated for associations with lung cancer patient clinical characteristics. Correlations between antigen-activated CD8+ T cells and effector Treg (CTLA-4+ [cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4] CD4+ CD25+ CD127low/- ) were also investigated. Higher percentages of PD-1+ , CD137+ and PD-1+ CD137+ amongst CD8+ T cells were observed in lung cancer patients compared with HCs. The percentages of CD137+ CD8+ and PD-1+ CD137+ CD8+ T cell subsets amongst CD8+ T cells were positively correlated with thoracic tumour burden and were strongly positively correlated with the percentage of effector Treg subset. Smoking patients harboured higher percentages of the PD-1+ CD8+ T cell subset compared with non-smoking patients. This study demonstrated that circulating antigen-activated CD8+ T cells accumulated in lung cancer patients along with increased effector Treg and thoracic tumour burden. These findings aid a better understanding of immune-host interactions in lung cancer patients using peripheral blood, and further support immunotherapeutic intervention strategies using combination therapy for differential control of Treg and activation of tumour-specific effector T cells.


CD137 (4-1BB); PD-1 (CD279); T cells; Treg cells; lung cancer

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