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Targeting nonviral antigens in viral-driven cancer
Adoptive cell transfer harnesses a patient's own T cells to destroy cancer. The strategy can successfully treat epithelial tumors driven by human papillomavirus (HPV), but it remains unclear why only some patients respond. Stevanović et al. examined the antitumor T cell response associated with HPV+ cervical cancers that underwent complete regression. Unexpectedly, reactive T cells were not directed against virally associated antigens, but rather against cancer germline antigens or neoantigens not previously recognized by the immune system. These findings counter the widely held belief that T cell responses against viral antigens are responsible for therapeutic effects in HPV-driven cancers.
Science, this issue p. 200
Immunotherapy has clinical activity in certain virally associated cancers. However, the tumor antigens targeted in successful treatments remain poorly defined. We used a personalized immunogenomic approach to elucidate the global landscape of antitumor T cell responses in complete regression of human papillomavirus–associated metastatic cervical cancer after tumor-infiltrating adoptive T cell therapy. Remarkably, immunodominant T cell reactivities were directed against mutated neoantigens or a cancer germline antigen, rather than canonical viral antigens. T cells targeting viral tumor antigens did not display preferential in vivo expansion. Both viral and nonviral tumor antigen–specific T cells resided predominantly in the programmed cell death 1 (PD-1)–expressing T cell compartment, which suggests that PD-1 blockade may unleash diverse antitumor T cell reactivities. These findings suggest a new paradigm of targeting nonviral antigens in immunotherapy of virally associated cancers.