Antigen Selection for Enhanced Affinity T-Cell Receptor-Based Cancer Therapies

J Biomol Screen. 2016 Sep;21(8):769-85. doi: 10.1177/1087057116637837. Epub 2016 Mar 18.


Evidence of adaptive immune responses in the prevention of cancer has been accumulating for decades. Spontaneous T-cell responses occur in multiple indications, bringing the study of de novo expressed cancer antigens to the fore and highlighting their potential as targets for cancer immunotherapy. Circumventing the immune-suppressive mechanisms that maintain tumor tolerance and driving an antitumor cytotoxic T-cell response in cancer patients may eradicate the tumor or block disease progression. Multiple strategies are being pursued to harness the cytotoxic potential of T cells clinically. Highly promising results are now emerging. The focus of this review is the target discovery process for cancer immune therapeutics based on affinity-matured T-cell receptors (TCRs). Target cancer antigens in the context of adoptive cell transfer technologies and soluble biologic agents are discussed. To appreciate the impact of TCR-based technology and understand the TCR discovery process, it is necessary to understand key differences between TCR-based therapy and other immunotherapy approaches. The review first summarizes key advances in the cancer immunotherapy field and then discusses the opportunities that TCR technology provides. The nature and breadth of molecular targets that are tractable to this approach are discussed, together with the challenges associated with finding them.

Keywords: T-cell receptors; TCR; mass spectrometry; oncology; review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / isolation & purification*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / therapeutic use*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell