Purpose: NY-ESO-1 cancer testis (CT) antigen is an attractive candidate for immunotherapy as a result of its high immunogenicity. The aim of this study was to explore the potential for NY-ESO-1 antigen directed immunotherapy in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) by determining the frequency of expression by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and the degree of inherent immunogenicity to NY-ESO-1.
Experimental design: 168 TNBC and 47 ER+/HER2- primary breast cancer specimens were used to determine NY-ESO-1 frequency by IHC. As previous studies have shown that patients with a robust innate humoral immune response to CT antigens are more likely to develop CD8 T-cell responses to NY-ESO-1 peptides, we evaluated the degree to which patients with NY-ESO-1 expression had inherent immunogenicity by measuring antibodies. The relationship between NY-ESO-1 expression and CD8+ T lymphocytes was also examined.
Results: The frequency of NY-ESO-1 expression in the TNBC cohort was 16% versus 2% in ER+/HER2- patients. A higher NY-ESO-1 score was associated with a younger age at diagnosis in the TNBC patients with NY-ESO-1 expression (p = 0.026). No differences in OS (p = 0.278) or PFS (p = 0.238) by NY-ESO-1 expression status were detected. Antibody responses to NY-ESO-1 were found in 73% of TNBC patients whose tumors were NY-ESO-1 positive. NY-ESO-1 positive patients had higher CD8 counts than negative patients (p = 0.018).
Conclusion: NY-ESO-1 is expressed in a substantial subset of TNBC patients and leads to a high humoral immune response in a large proportion of these individuals. Given these observations, patients with TNBC may benefit from targeted therapies directed against NY-ESO-1.