Research ArticleCANCER

Resident memory T cells in the skin mediate durable immunity to melanoma

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Science Immunology  14 Apr 2017:
Vol. 2, Issue 10, eaam6346
DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aam6346

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Resident memory to cancer

Melanoma patients with vitiligo are more likely to have a positive outcome, but the mechanism behind this association has remained unclear. Now, Malik et al. report that skin-resident memory T (TRM) cells specific to melanoma antigens are maintained in vitiligo-affected skin. These cells persist and function independently of the lymphoid compartment, suggesting that the vitiligo lesions provide a niche for the TRM cells. The TRM cells provide durable memory to the tumor, even in pigmented skin. These data suggest that skin TRM cells are critical for maintaining antitumor immunity.


Tissue-resident memory T (TRM) cells have been widely characterized in infectious disease settings; however, their role in mediating immunity to cancer remains unknown. We report that skin-resident memory T cell responses to melanoma are generated naturally as a result of autoimmune vitiligo. Melanoma antigen–specific TRM cells resided predominantly in melanocyte-depleted hair follicles and were maintained without recirculation or replenishment from the lymphoid compartment. These cells expressed CD103, CD69, and CLA (cutaneous lymphocyte antigen), but lacked PD-1 (programmed cell death protein–1) or LAG-3 (lymphocyte activation gene–3), and were capable of making IFN-γ (interferon-γ). CD103 expression on CD8 T cells was required for the establishment of TRM cells in the skin but was dispensable for vitiligo development. CD103+ CD8 TRM cells were critical for protection against melanoma rechallenge. This work establishes that CD103-dependent TRM cells play a key role in perpetuating antitumor immunity.

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