Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Tomasz Zal

Committee Member

Francois Claret

Committee Member

Eugenie Kleinerman

Committee Member

Dean Lee

Committee Member

Gregory Lizee


The binding of immune inhibitory receptor Programmed Death 1 (PD-1) on T cells to its ligand PD-L1 has been implicated as a major contributor to tumor induced immune suppression. Clinical trials of PD-L1 blockade have proven effective in unleashing therapeutic anti-tumor immune responses in a subset of patients with advanced melanoma, yet current response rates are low for reasons that remain unclear. Hypothesizing that the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway regulates T cell surveillance within the tumor microenvironment, we employed intravital microscopy to investigate the in vivo impact of PD-L1 blocking antibody upon tumor-associated immune cell migration. However, current analytical methods of intravital dynamic microscopy data lack the ability to identify cellular targets of T cell interactions in vivo, a crucial means for discovering which interactions are modulated by therapeutic intervention. By developing novel imaging techniques that allowed us to better analyze tumor progression and T cell dynamics in the microenvironment; we were able to explore the impact of PD-L1 blockade upon the migratory properties of tumor-associated immune cells, including T cells and antigen presenting cells, in lung tumor progression. Our results demonstrate that early changes in tumor morphology may be indicative of responsiveness to anti-PD-L1 therapy. We show that immune cells in the tumor microenvironment as well as tumors themselves express PD-L1, but immune phenotype alone is not a predictive marker of effective anti-tumor responses. Through a novel method in which we quantify T cell interactions, we show that T cells are largely engaged in interactions with dendritic cells in the tumor microenvironment. Additionally, we show that during PD-L1 blockade, non-activated T cells are recruited in greater numbers into the tumor microenvironment and engage more preferentially with dendritic cells. We further show that during PD-L1 blockade, activated T cells engage in more confined, immune synapse-like interactions with dendritic cells, as opposed to more dynamic, kinapse-like interactions with dendritic cells when PD-L1 is free to bind its receptor. By advancing the contextual analysis of anti-tumor immune surveillance in vivo, this study implicates the interaction between T cells and tumor-associated dendritic cells as a possible modulator in targeting PD-L1 for anti-tumor immunotherapy.


PD-1, PD-L1, Intravital microscopy, Tumor immune surveillance, Immunotherapy