Immune therapies have transformed the cancer therapeutic landscape but fail to benefit most patients. To elucidate the underlying mechanisms by which T cells mediate elimination of leukemia, we generated a high-resolution map of longitudinal T cell dynamics within the same tumor microenvironment (TME; bone marrow) during response or resistance to donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI), a widely used immunotherapy for relapsed leukemia. We analyzed 87,939 bone marrow-derived single T cell transcriptomes, along with chromatin accessibility and single T cell receptor clonality profiles, by developing novel machine learning tools for integrating longitudinal and multimodal data. We found that pre-treatment enrichment and post-treatment rapid, durable expansion of ‘terminal’ (TEX) and ‘precursor’ (TPEX) exhausted subsets, respectively, defined DLI response. In contrast to the common, shared pathways marking DLI response, a heterogeneous pattern of T cell dysfunction marked DLI resistance. Unexpectedly, TPEX cells that expanded in responders did not arise from the infusion product but instead from both pre-existing and novel clonotypes recruited to the TME. Further, we introduce a Bayesian method, Symphony, to define the T cell regulatory circuitry and master regulators underlying TEX and TPEX subsets that may be broadly relevant to other exhaustion antagonists across cancers. In conclusion, our data implicate the hierarchy of both TEX and TPEX subsets for immunotherapeutic responses in leukemia, extending the scope of their relevance beyond checkpoint blockade to adoptive cellular therapy. Moreover, our results provocatively suggest that immunologic ‘help’ from DLI, rather than direct transfer of anti-leukemic T cells, drove leukemic remission. Finally, we provide a general analysis paradigm for exploiting temporal single-cell genomic profiling for deep understanding of how immune therapies differentially shape the evolutionary trajectories of the TME in accordance with clinical outcome.
Citation Format: Pavan Bachireddy, Elham Azizi, Cassandra Burdziak, Vinhkhang Nguyen, Christina Ennis, Zi- Ning Choo, Shuqiang Li, Kenneth Livak, Donna Neuberg, Robert Soiffer, Jerome Ritz, Edwin Alyea, Dana Pe'er, Catherine Wu. Mapping the evolution of T cell states during response and resistance to adoptive cellular therapy [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Virtual Special Conference on the Evolving Tumor Microenvironment in Cancer Progression: Mechanisms and Emerging Therapeutic Opportunities; in association with the Tumor Microenvironment (TME) Working Group; 2021 Jan 11-12. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(5 Suppl):Abstract nr LT008.