The Pfizer Forschungspreis is a prestigious Swiss science prize for young researchers who perform fundamental or clinical research in the field of health and medicine. Daniela won the award within the category of Oncology/ Basic Research, together with her co-authors Viktor H. Kölzer and Kirsten D. Mertz from the Cantonal Hospital Baselland.
The aim was to assess whether heterogeneity in intratumoral dysfunctional T cells can be used as a personalized predictor of immunotherapy response in lung cancer.
The recent success of cancer immunotherapy has significantly improved clinical outcome for a spectrum of cancer types. Different T cell populations play an important role but not all dysfunctional T cell populations may respond equally well to therapies like PD-1/PD-L1 blockade.
The researchers performed molecular and functional analyses of distinct intratumoral T cell subsets from human lung carcinomas. They identified so-called PD-1T T cells (T cells with high PD-1 expression level) as a separate, highly tumor-reactive T cell population with a distinct transcriptional state. In addition, the researchers identified a novel function of those highly exhausted cells which they acquire at the tumor site. Most importantly, the researchers observed that the presence of PD-1T T cells correlates with a better response to anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapy.
The development of a digital imaging protocol for quantification of PD-1T T cells allows to translate these findings into a clinically applicable assay for human tissue samples. This assay will allow the validation of PD-1T T cells as a novel biomarker for response to anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapy in larger patient cohorts.
Daniela Thommen et al., A transcriptionally and functionally distinct PD-1+CD8+T cell pool with predictive potential in non-small-cell lung cancer treated with PD-1 blockade.
Read more about the award (in German):