Successful combinations of radiotherapy and immunotherapy depend on the presence of live T cells within the tumor; however, radiotherapy is believed to damage T cells. Here, based on longitudinal in vivo imaging and functional analysis, we report that a large proportion of T cells survive clinically relevant doses of radiation and show increased motility, and higher production of interferon gamma, compared with T cells from unirradiated tumors. Irradiated intratumoral T cells can mediate tumor control without newly-infiltrating T cells. Transcriptomic analysis suggests T cell reprogramming in the tumor microenvironment and similarities with tissue-resident memory T cells, which are more radio-resistant than circulating/lymphoid tissue T cells. TGFβ is a key upstream regulator of T cell reprogramming and contributes to intratumoral Tcell radio-resistance. These findings have implications for the design of radio-immunotherapy trials in that local irradiation is not inherently immunosuppressive, and irradiation of multiple tumors might optimize systemic effects of radiotherapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)