NKG2A+CD8+ T cells infiltration determines immunosuppressive contexture and inferior response to immunotherapy in clear cell renal cell carcinoma

January, 01, 2024 | Select Oncology Journal Articles


Immunotherapy is gaining momentum, but current treatments have limitations in terms of beneficiaries. Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) harbors the highest expression of human leukocyte antigen E (HLA-E), ligand of NKG2A, among all solid tumors. In this study, we aim to investigate the role of NKG2A+CD8+ T cells in tumor microenvironment and its potential as a novel target in ccRCC.


This study included four independent cohorts, including 234 patients from Zhongshan cohort (ZSHC) who underwent partial or radical nephrectomy at Zhongshan Hospital, and 117 metastatic patients from metastatic Zhongshan cohort (ZSHC-metastatic renal cell carcinoma) who were treated with immune checkpoint inhibitor or tyrosine kinase inhibitor alone. We also incorporated a cohort of 530 patients diagnosed with ccRCC from The Cancer Genome Atlas (referred to as TCGA-kidney renal clear cell carcinoma) and 311 patients from CheckMate cohort for bioinformatics exploration and hypothesis validation. Fresh surgical specimens from 15 patients who underwent ccRCC surgery at Zhongshan Hospital were collected for flow cytometry analysis. Another 10 fresh surgical specimens were used to investigate the therapeutic potential of NKG2A blockade after in vitro intervention. The infiltration of NKG2A+CD8+ T cells was assessed using immunohistochemical staining, flow cytometry, and immunofluorescence staining in ZSHC cohort.


Patients with higher infiltration of NKG2A+CD8+ T cells in ccRCC exhibited shorter overall survival and resistance to immunotherapy. NKG2A+CD8+ T cells expressed upregulated checkpoint molecules and displayed impaired effector functions, along with tissue-residency characteristics. Combination of programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1) blockade and NKG2A blockade demonstrated an enhanced capability in reactivating CD8+ T cells effector functions.


Intense infiltration of NKG2A+CD8+ T cells were associated with poorer prognosis and response to immunotherapy. NKG2A blockade combined with current immunotherapy exhibited a robust ability to reactivate CD8+ T cells effector functions.

For Additional News from OncWeekly – Your Front Row Seat To The Future of Cancer Care –




Sign up for our emails

Trusted insights straight to your inbox and get the latest updates from OncWeekly

Privacy Policy