Profile of Tumor Antigen-Specific CD8 T Cells in Patients With Hepatitis B Virus-Related Hepatocellular Carcinoma Gehring, Adam J. et al. Gastroenterology , Volume 137 , Issue 2 , 682 - 690
Background & Aims: Tumor and viral antigens are expressed by hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with chronic hepatitis B, but little is known about the immunodominance and function of tumor- and virus-specific CD8+ T cells in these patients. Methods: HLA-A2-restricted T-cell responses to 16 tumor antigens and hepatitis B virus (HBV) proteins were tested using 49 previously described epitopes. Cells from 30 HLA-A2+, HBV-infected patients (10 with HCC, 10 with HBV cirrhosis, and 10 HBV but no cirrhosis) were analyzed, after expansion, by enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot (ELISPOT). Interferon (IFN)-γ, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and interleukin (IL)-2 production, as well as expression of the degranulation marker CD107a on tumor-specific CD8+ T cells, were evaluated. Results: Cells from all groups had tumor-specific responses. The tumor antigens NY-ESO-1 and SSX-2 were most frequently targeted and were immunogenic in the HLA-A2 subtypes that are characteristic of Asian ethnicity. Tumor-specific T cells had low affinities; T cells from non-HCC patients were polyfunctional (IFN-γ+, TNF-α+, CD107a+) and those from HCC patients displayed an exhausted phenotype (IFN-γ+, CD107a+). Programmed Death 1 (PD-1) was expressed at higher levels on T cells from tumor and liver than peripheral blood from HCC patients and might contribute to T-cell exhaustion. Blocking PD-1/PD-L1 increased the frequency of tumor-specific T cells in HCC patients but did not restore T cell function. Conclusions: Patients with or without HCC have a quantitative and functional hierarchy of tumor-specific T cells. HLA-A2-restricted T cells from HCC patients target NY-ESO-1, but exist in an exhausted state that might require additional activation to restore function.
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