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Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, renal cell carcinoma, circulating lymphocytes, immune checkpoint inhibitors, nivolumab
Background: In clinical trials with immunotherapy, histological features such as tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) are investigated as potential predictive biomarkers, with the limit of an outdated parameter for a typically dynamic element. Methods: This explorative study compared, in metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) patients, basal pathological data about TILs on diagnostic histological specimens with circulating lymphocyte subpopulations measured before and during therapy with nivolumab. Results: Of 11 mRCC patients, 5 had low presence of TILs (L-TILs), 3 moderate amount (M-TILs) and 3 high number (H-TILs). Overall, 8 patients had low intratumoral pathological CD4+/CD8+ ratio (LIPR) ≤1 and 3 cases high intratumoral pathological ratio (HIPR) ≥2. Of 8 patients with LIPR, only 2 matched with low circulating CD4+/CD8+ ratio (LCR) ≤1; 5 had high circulating ratio (HCR) ≥2. All 3 cases with HIPR (≥2) conversely had LCR (≤1). Circulating CD4+/CD8+ ratio remained unchanged during therapy (mean -0.12 in 8 weeks). The respective percentage values of CD4+ and CD8+ circulating T cells also remained stable (variation 0%); the absolute value of CD4+ was more likely to increase (mean +46.3/mm3); the level of CD8+ tended to slightly decrease (mean -6.5/mm3). No correlation of lymphocyte subpopulations with treatment outcome was found. Of note, we did not evidence correspondence between histopathological and circulating findings in terms of T-lymphocyte subpopulations, also suggesting the inconsistency of circulating data in terms of relative variations. Conclusions: Considering the likely high dynamism of TILs, rebiopsy before therapy might be proposed to assess the utility of TILs characterization for predictive purpose.