Adoptive T cell therapies (ACTs) hold great promise in cancer treatment, but low overall response rates in patients with solid tumors underscore remaining challenges in realizing the potential of this cellular immunotherapy approach. Promoting CD8+ T cell adaptation to tissue residency represents an underutilized but promising strategy to improve tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) function. Here, we report that deletion of the HIF negative regulator von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) in CD8+ T cells induced HIF-1α/HIF-2α–dependent differentiation of tissue-resident memory–like (Trm-like) TILs in mouse models of malignancy. VHL-deficient TILs accumulated in tumors and exhibited a core Trm signature despite an exhaustion-associated phenotype, which led to retained polyfunctionality and response to αPD-1 immunotherapy, resulting in tumor eradication and protective tissue-resident memory. VHL deficiency similarly facilitated enhanced accumulation of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells with a Trm-like phenotype in tumors. Thus, HIF activity in CD8+ TILs promotes accumulation and antitumor activity, providing a new strategy to enhance the efficacy of ACTs.
Ilkka Liikanen, Colette Lauhan, Sara Quon, Kyla Omilusik, Anthony T. Phan, Laura Barceló Bartrolí, Amir Ferry, John Goulding, Joyce Chen, James P. Scott-Browne, Jason T. Yustein, Nicole E. Scharping, Deborah A. Witherden, Ananda W. Goldrath