Treatment with immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) often fails to elicit durable antitumor immunity. Recent studies suggest that ICB does not restore potency to terminally dysfunctional T cells, but instead drives proliferation and differentiation of self-renewing progenitor T cells into fresh, effector-like T cells. Antitumor immunity catalyzed by ICB is characterized by mobilization of antitumor T cells in systemic circulation and tumor. To address whether abundance of self-renewing T cells in blood is associated with immunotherapy response, we used flow cytometry of peripheral blood from a cohort of patients with metastatic non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treated with ICB. At baseline, expression of T-cell factor 1 (TCF1), a marker of self-renewing T cells, was detected at higher frequency in effector-memory (CCR7) CD8+ T cells from patients who experienced durable clinical benefit compared to those with primary resistance to ICB. On-treatment blood samples from patients benefiting from ICB also exhibited a greater frequency of TCF1+CCR7CD8+ T cells and higher proportions of TCF1 expression in treatment-expanded PD-1+CCR7CD8+ T cells. The observed correlation of TCF1 frequency in CCR7CD8+ T cells and response to ICB suggests that broader examination of self-renewing T-cell abundance in blood will determine its potential as a noninvasive, predictive biomarker of response and resistance to immunotherapy.

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