Suppression of immune reactivity by increased expression of co-inhibitory receptors has been discussed as a major reason as to why the immune system fails to control tumor development. Elucidating the co-inhibitory expression pattern of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in different cancer types will help to develop future treatment strategies. We characterized markers reflecting and affecting T-cell functionality by flow cytometry on lymphocytes isolated from blood, ascites and tumor from advanced ovarian cancer patients (n = 35). Significantly higher proportions of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells expressed co-inhibitory receptors LAG-3, PD-1 and TIM-3 in tumor and ascites compared to blood. Co-expression was predominantly observed among intratumoral CD8+ T-cells and the most common combination was PD-1 and TIM-3. Analysis of 26 soluble factors revealed highest concentrations of IP-10 and MCP-1 in both ascites and tumor. Correlating these results with clinical outcome revealed the proportion of CD8+ T-cells without expression of LAG-3, PD-1 and TIM-3 to be beneficial for overall survival. In total we identified eight immune-related risk factors associated with reduced survival. Ex vivo activation showed tumor-derived CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells to be functionally active, assessed by the production of IFN-γ, IL-2, TNF-α, IL-17 and CD107a. Blocking the PD-1 receptor resulted in significantly increased release of IFN-γ suggesting potential reinvigoration. The ovarian tumor environment exhibits an inflammatory milieu with abundant presence of infiltrating immune cells expressing inhibitory checkpoints. Importantly, we found subsets of CD8+ T-cells with double and triple expression of co-inhibitory receptors, supporting the need for multiple checkpoint-targeting agents to overcome T-cell dysfunction in ovarian cancer.
Rådestad, E., Klynning, C., Stikvoort, A., Mogensen, O., Nava, S., Magalhaes, I., & Uhlin, M. (2019). Immune profiling and identification of prognostic immune-related risk factors in human ovarian cancer. OncoImmunology, 8(2). https://doi.org/10.1080/2162402X.2018.1535730