The interplay between CD4 T cells and tumor cells in Hodgkin lymphoma: interactions and immune checkpoint blockade

Johanna Veldman

    Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

    799 Downloads (Pure)


    Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is a common malignancy in young adults. It is characterized by a minority of tumor cells surrounded by an abundant inflammatory infiltrate, which mainly consists of CD4+ T cells. The current treatment strategy has a high cure-rate, but often results in long-term treatment related adverse events. Therefore, new treatment options such as immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) are being explored. In this project we characterized CD4+ T cells and their interactions with tumor cells, with a specific focus on the role of CD4+ T cells in ICB therapy. We discovered that CD4+ T cells are weakly activated by T cell receptor (TCR)-HLA class II and CD2-CD58 interactions with the tumor cells. These T cells that are in close proximity to the tumor cells have been activated before (antigen experienced) and are diverse (polyclonal). In addition, they specifically express transcription factors TOX and TOX2 that are associated with T cell exhaustion and can be induced by chronic or repeated TCR stimulation. This suggests that Hodgkin tumor cells actively inhibit cells in their surrounding to promote tumor cell survival. We developed a long-term co-culture model and found that blocking PD-1 with nivolumab results in pronounced CD4+ T cell activation and proliferation, confirming the potential of this treatment in HL. In addition, we identified soluble PD-L1 as a promising biomarker in HL patients. In summary, our studies provide novel insights into the function of CD4+ T cells in HL biology and treatment responses. This may help improve immunotherapy in HL patients.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • Diepstra, Arjan, Supervisor
    • van den Berg, Anke, Supervisor
    • Visser, Lydia, Co-supervisor
    Award date8-Dec-2021
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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