microRNA expression patterns in tumor infiltrating lymphocytes are strongly associated with response to adoptive cell transfer therapy

Gilli Galore-Haskel, Eyal Greenberg, Inbal Yahav, Ettai Markovits, Rona Ortenberg, Ronnie Shapira-Fromer, Orit Itzhaki, Jacob Schachter, Michal J. Besser, Gal Markel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Adoptive cell transfer (ACT) using autologous tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) was previously shown to yield clinical response in metastatic melanoma patients as an advanced line. Unfortunately, there is no reliable marker for predicting who will benefit from the treatment. We analyzed TIL samples from the infusion bags used for treatment of 57 metastatic melanoma patients and compared their microRNA profiles. The discovery cohort included six responding patients and seven patients with progressive disease, as defined by RECIST1.1. High throughput analysis with NanoString nCounter demonstrated significantly higher levels of miR-34a-5p and miR-22-3p among TIL from non-responders. These results were validated in TIL infusion bag samples from an independent cohort of 44 patients, using qRT-PCR of the individual microRNAs. Using classification trees, a data-driven predictive model for response was built, based on the level of expression of these microRNAs. Patients that achieved stable disease were classified with responders, setting apart the patients with progressive disease. Moreover, the expression levels of miR-34a-5p in the infused TIL created distinct survival groups, which strongly supports its role as a potential biomarker for TIL-ACT therapy. Indeed, when tested against autologous melanoma cells, miRLow TIL cultures exhibited significantly higher cytotoxic activity than miRHigh TIL cultures, and expressed features of terminally exhausted effectors. Finally, overexpression of miR-34a-5p or miR-22-3p in TIL inhibited their cytotoxic ability in vitro. Overall, we show that a two-microRNA signature correlates with failure of TIL-ACT therapy and survival in melanoma patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1541-1555
Number of pages15
JournalCancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


FundersFunder number
Aronson Fund
Lemelbaum family fund
Samueli Foundation
Melanoma Research Alliance
Israel Science Foundation15/1925
Israel Science Foundation


    • ACT
    • Biomarker
    • Melanoma
    • TIL
    • microRNA


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