Patients with HIV-associated cancers have evidence of increased T cell dysfunction and exhaustion prior to cancer diagnosis

Omkar Chaudhary, Diane Trotta, Kaicheng Wang, Xun Wang, Xiuping Chu, Chip Bradley, Jason Okulicz, Ryan C. Maves, Karl Kronmann, Christina M. Schofield, Jason M. Blaylock, Yanhong Deng, Kurt A. Schalper, Susan M. Kaech, Brian Agan, Anuradha Ganesan, Brinda Emu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background People living with HIV (PLWH) have increased risk of developing cancers after controlling traditional risk factors and viral suppression. This study explores whether T cells can serve as a marker of risk for cancer among HIV-infected virally suppressed patients. Methods A nested case control study design was pursued with 17 cancer cases and 73 controls (PLWH without cancer)ouidentified among the US Military HIV Natural History Study cohort, and were matched for CD4 + count, duration of HIV infection, and viral suppression. Cells were obtained from PLWH on an average of 12 months prior to clinical cancer diagnosis. Expression of inhibitory receptors (PD-1, CD160, CD244, Lag-3, and TIGIT), and transcription factors (T-bet, Eomesodermin, TCF-1, and (TOX) was measured on CD8 +T cells from that early time point. Results We found that cases have increased expression of PD-1 +CD160+CD244+ ('triple positive') on total and effector CD8 + compared with controls (p=0.02). Furthermore, CD8 +T cells that were both PD-1 +CD160+CD244+ and T-bet dim Eomes hi were significantly elevated in cases at time point before cancer detection, compared with controls without cancer (p=0.008). This was driven by the finding that transcriptional factor profile of cells was altered in cancers compared with controls. Triple-positive cells were noted to retain the ability for cytotoxicity and cytokine secretion mediated by expression of CD160 and PD-1, respectively. However, triple-positive cells demonstrated high expression of TOX-1, a transcription factor associated with T cell exhaustion. Conclusion In conclusion, we have found a subset of dysfunctional CD8 +T cells, PD-1 +CD160+CD244+T-bet dim Eomes hi, that is elevated 12 months before cancer diagnosis, suggesting that peripheral T cell alterations may serve as a biomarker of increased cancer risk among PLWH.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere004564
JournalJournal for immunotherapy of cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - 25 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Translational Medical Research
  • Tumor Biomarkers


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