Immunogenicity of somatic mutations in human gastrointestinal cancers

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Science  11 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6266, pp. 1387-1390
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad1253

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Low mutation rate okay for T cells

Cancers that tend to have high numbers of mutations, such as melanoma and smoking-induced lung cancer, respond well to immunotherapies, whereas those with fewer mutations, such as pancreatic cancer, do not. Tran et al. searched for tumor mutation–reactive T cells in 10 patients with metastatic gastrointestinal cancers, which have relatively low mutation burdens, and discovered that 9 out of 10 harbored such cells. T cells from one patient recognized a mutation common to many types of cancers. Engineering T cells to express this particular mutation-reactive T cell receptor may extend adoptive cell immunotherapy to a larger pool of patients than previously anticipated.

Science, this issue p. 1387


It is unknown whether the human immune system frequently mounts a T cell response against mutations expressed by common epithelial cancers. Using a next-generation sequencing approach combined with high-throughput immunologic screening, we demonstrated that tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) from 9 out of 10 patients with metastatic gastrointestinal cancers contained CD4+ and/or CD8+ T cells that recognized one to three neo-epitopes derived from somatic mutations expressed by the patient’s own tumor. There were no immunogenic epitopes shared between these patients. However, we identified in one patient a human leukocyte antigen–C*08:02–restricted T cell receptor from CD8+ TILs that targeted the KRASG12D hotspot driver mutation found in many human cancers. Thus, a high frequency of patients with common gastrointestinal cancers harbor immunogenic mutations that can potentially be exploited for the development of highly personalized immunotherapies.

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