Mechanisms of T-Cell Exhaustion in Pancreatic Cancer

Saka D., Gokalp M., Piyade B., Cevik N. C. , Sever E. A. , Unutmaz D., ...More

CANCERS, vol.12, no.8, 2020 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 12 Issue: 8
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.3390/cancers12082274
  • Title of Journal : CANCERS


T-cell exhaustion is a phenomenon that represents the dysfunctional state of T cells in chronic infections and cancer and is closely associated with poor prognosis in many cancers. The endogenous T-cell immunity and genetically edited cell therapies (CAR-T) failed to prevent tumor immune evasion. The effector T-cell activity is perturbed by an imbalance between inhibitory and stimulatory signals causing a reprogramming in metabolism and the high levels of multiple inhibitory receptors like programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1), cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4), T cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain-containing protein 3 (TIM-3), and Lymphocyte-activation gene 3 (Lag-3). Despite the efforts to neutralize inhibitory receptors by a single agent or combinatorial immune checkpoint inhibitors to boost effector function, PDAC remains unresponsive to these therapies, suggesting that multiple molecular mechanisms play a role in stimulating the exhaustion state of tumor-infiltrating T cells. Recent studies utilizing transcriptomics, mass cytometry, and epigenomics revealed a critical role of Thymocyte selection-associated high mobility group box protein (TOX) genes and TOX-associated pathways, driving T-cell exhaustion in chronic infection and cancer. Here, we will review recently defined molecular, genetic, and cellular factors that drive T-cell exhaustion in PDAC. We will also discuss the effects of available immune checkpoint inhibitors and the latest clinical trials targeting various molecular factors mediating T-cell exhaustion in PDAC.