Immune checkpoint therapy with PD-1 blockade has emerged as an effective therapy for many advanced cancers; however, only a small fraction of patients achieve durable responses. To date, there is no validated blood-based means of predicting the response to PD-1 blockade. We report that Bim is a downstream signaling molecule of the PD-1 pathway, and its detection in T cells is significantly associated with expression of PD-1 and effector T cell markers. High levels of Bim in circulating tumor-reactive (PD-1+CD11ahiCD8+) T cells were prognostic of poor survival in patients with metastatic melanoma who did not receive anti–PD-1 therapy and were also predictive of clinical benefit in patients with metastatic melanoma who were treated with anti–PD-1 therapy. Moreover, this circulating tumor-reactive T cell population significantly decreased after successful anti–PD-1 therapy. Our study supports a crucial role of Bim in both T cell activation and apoptosis as regulated by PD-1 and PD-L1 interactions in effector CD8+ T cells. Measurement of Bim levels in circulating T cells of patients with cancer may provide a less invasive strategy to predict and monitor responses to anti–PD-1 therapy, although future prospective analyses are needed to validate its utility.
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