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A Library-Based Screening Method Identifies Neoantigen-Reactive T Cells in Peripheral Blood Prior to Relapse of Ovarian Cancer

By January 16, 2018No Comments

Mutated cancer antigens, or neoantigens, represent compelling immunological targets and appear to underlie the success of several forms of immunotherapy. While there are anecdotal reports of neoantigen-specific T cells being present in the peripheral blood and/or tumors of cancer patients, effective adoptive cell therapy (ACT) against neoantigens will require reliable methods to isolate and expand rare, neoantigen-specific T cells from clinically available biospecimens, ideally prior to clinical relapse. Here, we addressed this need using “mini-lines”, large libraries of parallel T cell cultures, each originating from only 2,000 T cells. Using small quantities of peripheral blood from multiple time points in an ovarian cancer patient, we screened over 3.3 × 106 CD8+ T cells by ELISPOT for recognition of peptides corresponding to the full complement of somatic mutations (n = 37) from the patient’s tumor. We identified ten T cell lines which collectively recognized peptides encoding five distinct mutations. Six of the ten T cell lines recognized a previously described neoantigen from this patient (HSDL1L25V), whereas the remaining four lines recognized peptides corresponding to four other mutations. Only the HSDL1L25V-specific T cell lines recognized autologous tumor. HSDL1L25V-specific T cells comprised at least three distinct clonotypes and could be identified and expanded from peripheral blood 3-9 months prior to the first tumor recurrence. These T cells became undetectable at later time points, underscoring the dynamic nature of the response. Thus, neoantigen-specific T cells can be expanded from small volumes of blood during tumor remission, making pre-emptive ACT a plausible clinical strategy.