Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
Address correspondence to: Christian S. Hinrichs, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Room 4B04, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA. Phone: 301.435.3027; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published March 12, 2018 - More info
T cells specific for neoantigens encoded by mutated genes in cancers are increasingly recognized as mediators of tumor destruction after immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy or adoptive cell transfer. Unfortunately, most neoantigens result from random mutations and are patient specific, and some cancers contain few mutations to serve as potential antigens. We describe a patient with stage IV acral melanoma who achieved a complete response following adoptive transfer of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). Tumor exome sequencing surprisingly revealed fewer than 30 nonsynonymous somatic mutations, including oncogenic BRAFV600E. Analysis of the specificity of TILs identified rare CD4+ T cells specific for BRAFV600E and diverse CD8+ T cells reactive to nonmutated self-antigens. These specificities increased in blood after TIL transfer and persisted long-term, suggesting they contributed to the effective antitumor immune response. Gene transfer of the BRAFV600E-specific T cell receptor (TCR) conferred recognition of class II MHC–positive cells expressing the BRAF mutation. Therapy with TCR-engineered BRAFV600E-specific CD4+ T cells may have direct antitumor effects and augment CD8+ T cell responses to self- and/or mutated tumor antigens in patients with BRAF-mutated cancers.
Joshua R. Veatch, Sylvia M. Lee, Matthew Fitzgibbon, I-Ting Chow, Brenda Jesernig, Tom Schmitt, Ying Ying Kong, Julia Kargl, A. McGarry Houghton, John A. Thompson, Martin McIntosh, William W. Kwok, Stanley R. Riddell
As oncogenes drive carcinogenesis and promote cancer cell survival, they are highly attractive therapeutic targets, and oncogene-targeting small molecules have achieved some clinical success. While many oncogenes are presently considered to be “druggable,” tumors often acquire treatment resistance, and patients are rarely cured in response to oncogene-specific treatment. In this issue of the JCI, Veatch and colleagues describe a patient with metastatic acral melanoma who experienced a complete tumor response following infusion of tumor-infiltrating T cells that targeted multiple tumor antigens, including a BRAFV600E driver mutation. T cells genetically engineered to express an anti-BRAFV600E T cell receptor (TCR) from the patient demonstrated recognition of an epitope that spanned the BRAFV600E mutation. These findings suggest that BRAFV600E might be targeted therapeutically with adoptive transfer of anti-BRAFV600E T cells. This research supports the emerging therapeutic paradigm of targeting oncogenic drivers with T cell immunotherapy.
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