Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Laszlo G. Radvanyi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Russell Broaddus, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dapeng Zhou, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Qing Ma, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Qing Yi, M.D., Ph.D.


CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) frequently infiltrate tumors, yet most melanoma patients fail to undergo tumor regression. We studied the differentiation of the CD8+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) from 44 metastatic melanoma patients using known T-cell differentiation markers. We also compared CD8+ TIL against the T cells from matched melanoma patients’ peripheral blood. We discovered a novel subset of CD8+ TIL co-expressing early-differentiation markers, CD27, CD28, and a late/senescent CTL differentiation marker, CD57. This CD8+CD57+ TIL expressed a cytolytic enzyme, granzyme B (GB), yet did not express another cytolytic pore-forming molecule, perforin (Perf). In contrast, the CD8+CD57+ T cells in the periphery were CD27-CD28-, and GBHi and PerfHi. We found this TIL subset was not senescent and could be induced to proliferate and differentiate into CD27-CD57+, perforinHi, mature CTL. This further differentiation was arrested by TGF-β1, an immunosuppressive cytokine known to be produced by many different kinds of tumors. Therefore, we have identified a novel subset of incompletely differentiated CD8+ TIL that resembled those found in patients with uncontrolled chronic viral infections.

In a related study, we explored prognostic biomarkers in metastatic melanoma patients treated in a Phase II Adoptive Cell Therapy (ACT) trial, in which autologous TIL were expanded ex vivo with IL-2 and infused into lymphodepleted patients. We unexpectedly found a significant positive clinical association with the infused CD8+ TIL expressing B- and T- lymphocyte attentuator (BTLA), an inhibitory T-cell receptor. We found that CD8+BTLA+ TIL had a superior proliferative response to IL-2, and were more capable of autocrine IL-2 production in response to TCR stimulation compared to the CD8+BTLA- TIL. The CD8+BTLA+ TIL were less differentiated and resembled the incompletely differentiated CD8+ TIL described above. In contrast, CD8+BTLA- TIL were poorly proliferative, expressed CD45RA and killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs), and exhibited a gene expression signature of T cell deletion. Surprisingly, ligation of BTLA by its cognate receptor, HVEM, enhanced the survival of CD8+BTLA+ TIL by activating Akt/PKB. Our studies provide a comprehensive characterization of CD8+ TIL differentiation in melanoma, and revealed BTLA as a novel T-cell differentiation marker along with its role in promoting T cell survival.


Adoptive T-cell Therapy, CD8+ effector memory, Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes, Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, Melanoma, B and T Lymphocyte Attenuator, T-cell survival/persistence