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PD-1- CD45RA+ effector-memory CD8 T cells and CXCL10+ macrophages are associated with response to atezolizumab plus bevacizumab in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma

The combination of atezolizumab plus bevacizumab (atezo/bev) has dramatically changed the treatment landscape of advanced HCC (aHCC), achieving durable responses in some patients. Using single-cell transcriptomics, we characterize the intra-tumoural and peripheral immune context of patients with aHCC treated with atezo/bev. Tumours from patients with durable responses are enriched for PDL1+ CXCL10+ macrophages and, based on cell–cell interaction analysis, express high levels of CXCL9/10/11 and are predicted to attract peripheral CXCR3+ CD8+ effector-memory T cells (CD8 TEM) into the tumour. Based on T cell receptor sharing and pseudotime trajectory analysis, we propose that CD8 TEM preferentially differentiate into clonally-expanded PD1CD45RA+ effector-memory CD8+ T cells (CD8 TEMRA) with pronounced cytotoxicity. In contrast, in non-responders, CD8 TEM remain frozen in their effector-memory state. Finally, in responders, CD8 TEMRA display a high degree of T cell receptor sharing with blood, consistent with their patrolling activity. These findings may help understand the possible mechanisms underlying response to atezo/bev in aHCC.

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