TIGIT and PD1 Co-blockade Restores ex vivo Functions of Human Tumor-Infiltrating CD8+ T Cells in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Zhouhong Ge, Guoying Zhou, Lucia Campos Carrascosa, Erik Gausvik, Patrick P.C. Boor, Lisanne Noordam, Michael Doukas, Wojciech G. Polak, Türkan Terkivatan, Qiuwei Pan, R. Bart Takkenberg, Joanne Verheij, Joris I. Erdmann, Jan N.M. IJzermans, Maikel P. Peppelenbosch, Jaco Kraan, Jaap Kwekkeboom, Dave Sprengers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Background & Aims: TIGIT is a co-inhibitory receptor, and its suitability as a target for cancer immunotherapy in HCC is unknown. PD1 blockade is clinically effective in about 20% of advanced HCC patients. Here we aim to determine whether co-blockade of TIGIT/PD1 has added value to restore functionality of HCC tumor-infiltrating T cells (TILs). Methods: Mononuclear leukocytes were isolated from tumors, paired tumor-free liver tissues (TFL) and peripheral blood of HCC patients, and used for flow cytometric phenotyping and functional assays. CD3/CD28 T-cell stimulation and antigen-specific assays were used to study the ex vivo effects of TIGIT/PD1 single or dual blockade on T-cell functions. Results: TIGIT was enriched, whereas its co-stimulatory counterpart CD226 was down-regulated on PD1high CD8+ TILs. PD1high TIGIT+ CD8+ TILs co-expressed exhaustion markers TIM3 and LAG3 and demonstrated higher TOX expression. Furthermore, this subset showed decreased capacity to produce IFN-γ and TNF-α. Expression of TIGIT-ligand CD155 was up-regulated on tumor cells compared with hepatocytes in TFL. Whereas single PD1 blockade preferentially enhanced ex vivo functions of CD8+ TILs from tumors with PD1high CD8+ TILs (high PD1 expressers), co-blockade of TIGIT and PD1 improved proliferation and cytokine production of CD8+ TILs from tumors enriched for PD1int CD8+ TILs (low PD1 expressers). Importantly, ex vivo co-blockade of TIGIT/PD1 improved proliferation, cytokine production, and cytotoxicity of CD8+ TILs compared with single PD1 blockade. Conclusions: Ex vivo, co-blockade of TIGIT/PD1 improves functionality of CD8+ TILs that do not respond to single PD1 blockade. Therefore co-blockade of TIGIT/PD1 could be a promising immune therapeutic strategy for HCC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-464
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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