ZNF683 marks a CD8 T cell population associated with anti-tumor immunity following anti-PD-1 therapy for Richter syndrome.
Unlike many other hematologic malignancies, Richter syndrome (RS), an aggressive B cell lymphoma originating from indolent chronic lymphocytic leukemia, is responsive to PD-1 blockade. To discover the determinants of response, we analyze single-cell transcriptome data generated from 17 bone marrow samples longitudinally collected from 6 patients with RS. Response is associated with intermediate exhausted CD8 effector/effector memory T cells marked by high expression of the transcription factor ZNF683, determined to be evolving from stem-like memory cells and divergent from terminally exhausted cells. This signature overlaps with that of tumor-infiltrating populations from anti-PD-1 responsive solid tumors. ZNF683 is found to directly target key T cell genes (TCF7, LMO2, CD69) and impact pathways of T cell cytotoxicity and activation. Analysis of pre-treatment peripheral blood from 10 independent patients with RS treated with anti-PD-1, as well as patients with solid tumors treated with anti-PD-1, supports an association of ZNF683 T cells with response.
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