Tireless surveillance by exhausted T cells.
T cell exhaustion is an evocative concept that results in attenuated function in the face of chronic antigen exposure and is critical to avoid immunopathology. However, tumors often exploit this dampened T cell function to escape the antitumor immune response. In this issue of the JCI, You et al. investigated a different aspect of T cell exhaustion in the setting of tumor immunity by characterizing the capacity of T cells for tireless migration. The dynamic nature of normal T cells was first made famous by intravital microscopy studies in explanted tissues. You et al. used a similar imaging strategy with reanimated human tumors, in which exhausted T cells displayed an enhanced capacity for intratumoral motility. These results suggest that exhausted T cells may be able to teach T cell engineers lessons about navigating within the tumor microenvironment.