Tracking the Fate and Origin of Clinically Relevant Adoptively Transferred CD8(+) T Cells In Vivo.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Science immunology, Volume 2, Issue 8 (2017)


Adoptively transferred tumor-specific cells can mediate tumor regression in cancers refractory to conventional therapy. Autologous polyclonal tumor-specific cytotoxic T cells (CTL) generated from peripheral blood and infused into patients with metastatic melanoma show enhanced persistence, compared to equivalent numbers of more extensively expanded monoclonal CTL, and are associated with complete remissions (CR) in select patients. We applied high-throughput T cell receptor Vβ sequencing (HTTCS) to identify individual clonotypes within CTL products, track them in vivo post-infusion and then deduce the pre-adoptive transfer (endogenous) frequencies of cells ultimately responsible for tumor regression. The summed in vivo post-transfer frequencies of the top 25 HTTCS-defined clonotypes originally detected in the infused CTL population were comparable to enumeration by binding of antigen peptide-HLA multimers, revealing quantitative HTTCS is a reliable, multimer-independent alternative. Surprisingly, the polyclonal CTL products were composed predominantly of clonotypes that were of very low frequency (VLF) in the endogenous samples, often below the limit of HTTCS detection (0.001%). In patients who achieved durable CRs, the composition of transferred CTLs was dominated (57-90%) by cells derived from a single VLF clonotype. Thus, HTTCS now reveals that tumor-specific CTL enabling long-term tumor control originate from endogenous VLF populations that exhibit proliferative/survival advantages. Along with results indicating that naïve cell populations are most likely to contain cells that exist at VLF within the repertoire, our results provide a strong rationale for favoring T cells arising from VLF populations and with early-differentiation phenotypes when selecting subset populations for adoptive transfer.