Current methods for biomarker discovery and target identification in immuno-oncology rely on static snapshots of tumor immunity. To thoroughly characterize the temporal nature of antitumor immune responses, we developed a 34-parameter spectral flow cytometry panel and performed high-throughput analyses in critical contexts. We leveraged two distinct preclinical models that recapitulate cancer immunoediting (NPK-C1) and immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) response (MC38), respectively, and profiled multiple relevant tissues at and around key inflection points of immune surveillance and escape and/or ICB response. Machine learning-driven data analysis revealed a pattern of KLRG1 expression that uniquely identified intratumoral effector CD4 T cell populations that constitutively associate with tumor burden across tumor models, and are lost in tumors undergoing regression in response to ICB. Similarly, a Helios - KLRG1 + subset of tumor-infiltrating regulatory T cells was associated with tumor progression from immune equilibrium to escape and was also lost in tumors responding to ICB. Validation studies confirmed KLRG1 signatures in human tumor-infiltrating CD4 T cells associate with disease progression in renal cancer. These findings nominate KLRG1 + CD4 T cell populations as subsets for further investigation in cancer immunity and demonstrate the utility of longitudinal spectral flow profiling as an engine of dynamic biomarker discovery.
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- CD4-positive T-lymphocytes
- immune checkpoint inhibitors
- lymphocytes, tumor-infiltrating
- renal cell carcinoma