T-cell priming transcriptomic markers: implications of immunome heterogeneity for precision immunotherapy

Hirotaka Miyashita, Razelle Kurzrock, Nicholas J. Bevins, Kartheeswaran Thangathurai, Suzanna Lee, Sarabjot Pabla, Mary Nesline, Sean T. Glenn, Jeffrey M. Conroy, Paul DePietro, Eitan Rubin, Jason K. Sicklick, Shumei Kato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immune checkpoint blockade is effective for only a subset of cancers. Targeting T-cell priming markers (TPMs) may enhance activity, but proper application of these agents in the clinic is challenging due to immune complexity and heterogeneity. We interrogated transcriptomics of 15 TPMs (CD137, CD27, CD28, CD80, CD86, CD40, CD40LG, GITR, ICOS, ICOSLG, OX40, OX40LG, GZMB, IFNG, and TBX21) in a pan-cancer cohort (N = 514 patients, 30 types of cancer). TPM expression was analyzed for correlation with histological type, microsatellite instability high (MSI-H), tumor mutational burden (TMB), and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression. Among 514 patients, the most common histological types were colorectal (27%), pancreatic (11%), and breast cancer (10%). No statistically significant association between histological type and TPM expression was seen. In contrast, expression of GZMB (granzyme B, a serine protease stored in activated T and NK cells that induces cancer cell apoptosis) and IFNG (activates cytotoxic T cells) were significantly higher in tumors with MSI-H, TMB ≥ 10 mutations/mb and PD-L1 ≥ 1%. PD-L1 ≥ 1% was also associated with significantly higher CD137, GITR, and ICOS expression. Patients’ tumors were classified into “Hot”, “Mixed”, or “Cold” clusters based on TPM expression using hierarchical clustering. The cold cluster showed a significantly lower proportion of tumors with PD-L1 ≥ 1%. Overall, 502 patients (98%) had individually distinct patterns of TPM expression. Diverse expression patterns of TPMs independent of histological type but correlating with other immunotherapy biomarkers (PD-L1 ≥ 1%, MSI-H and TMB ≥ 10 mutations/mb) were observed. Individualized selection of patients based on TPM immunomic profiles may potentially help with immunotherapy optimization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Journalnpj Genomic Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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