Objective: Around 7-10% of endometrial carcinomas are characterized by polymerase-ε-(POLE) exonuclease-domain-mutations, an ultra-mutated-phenotype and a favorable prognosis. It is currently unknown whether POLE ultra-mutated-tumors are more immunogenic when compared to the other groups of endometrial cancers.
Methods: We used autologous-dendritic-cells (DC) pulsed with whole-tumor-extracts to assess the level of CD8+ and CD4+ T-cell-activation induced by POLE-ultramutated (+) and POLE wild-type (-) endometrial cancer cells in vitro. T-lymphocyte-proliferations were evaluated using CFSE and/or ([3H])thymidine-incorporation-assays while the ability to specifically kill autologous-tumor-cells by cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte (CTL) was tested in standard 4-h-(51)Cr-cytotoxicity-assays. In order to correlate cytotoxic activity and proliferation by CD4+ and CD8+ T-lymphocytes, respectively, with a particular lymphoid subset, two-color-flow-cytometric analysis of intracellular-cytokine-expression (IFN-γ vs IL-4) at the single cell level was also performed.
Results: DC-pulsed with tumor extracts were able to induce CTL-responses against autologous-tumor-cells in both POLE (+) and POLE (-) cancer patients (P=0.305). These CD8+ T-cell-populations were cytotoxic against tumor-cells but they did not lyse PHA-stimulated-autologous-lymphocytes or autologous-EBV-transformed-lymphoblastoid-control-cell-lines. In contrast, only POLE (+) tumor-lysate-pulsed-DC were able to induce significant proliferation and high IFN-γ expression (i.e., Th1-cytokine-bias) in autologous in vitro DC-stimulated CD4+ T-cells as well as naïve CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells from patients-peripheral-blood (P<0.05).
Conclusions: POLE ultra-mutated-tumors are significantly more immunogenic when compared to POLE (-) tumors, in particular to the helper arm of the immune system. These data lend support to the hypothesis that the better prognosis of patients with POLE (+) tumors may at least in part be linked to their enhanced immunogenicity.
Keywords: Endometrial carcinoma; Polymerase ε; Uterine serous papillary cancer; Whole exome sequencing.
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