Metabolic Barriers to T Cell Function in Tumors.


The metabolic programs that drive T cell functions are exquisitely sensitive to cell intrinsic and extrinsic factors, allowing T cells to respond in a fine-tuned manner to a variety of immune challenges and conditions. However, many of the factors essential for effector T cell function are perturbed in the tumor microenvironment, where oncogenic mutations drive unrestrained cancer cell growth that leads to excess nutrient consumption, excess waste excretion, and insufficient oxygen delivery. This imposes metabolic constraints on infiltrating cells that result in dysfunction and loss of potential antitumor activity in both naturally occurring as well as tailored T cells introduced as part of immunotherapy. In this review, we highlight the metabolic properties that characterize tumor-infiltrating T cells, the barriers within the metabolic landscape of the tumor microenvironment, and the opportunities and challenges they present in development of new cancer therapeutics.