Tumour antigens recognized by T lymphocytes: at the core of cancer immunotherapy

Nat Rev Cancer. 2014 Feb;14(2):135-46. doi: 10.1038/nrc3670.


In this Timeline, we describe the characteristics of tumour antigens that are recognized by spontaneous T cell responses in cancer patients and the paths that led to their identification. We explain on what genetic basis most, but not all, of these antigens are tumour specific: that is, present on tumour cells but not on normal cells. We also discuss how strategies that target these tumour-specific antigens can lead either to tumour-specific or to crossreactive T cell responses, which is an issue that has important safety implications in immunotherapy. These safety issues are even more of a concern for strategies targeting antigens that are not known to induce spontaneous T cell responses in patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm