With the advent of immunotherapies for cancer, there is growing interest in the identification of tumor antigens. Tumor antigens are self-molecules altered through e.g. genetic mutations (neoantigens), protein truncation, protein misfolding, or abnormal posttranslational modifications. To induce an immune response, tumor antigens need to be secreted into the tumor environment and presented to the immune system in the draining lymph nodes, resulting in the generation of tumor-specific effector cells and antibodies. Cytotoxic T cells are thought to be responsible for killing of tumor cells, and several recent studies have used MS, combined with exome/transcriptome sequencing and bioinformatics, to identify their cognate peptide ligands on tumor MHC class I molecules. Circulating (serum) antibodies have been more widely used to identify tumor antigens in a range of human cancers, using 2D Western blots, immunoaffinity, and microarray technologies. More specific antibody probes have been generated by harvesting antibodies directly from antibody-secreting cells through in vitro cultures of lymph node cells (antibody-secreting cells probes) or B-cell immortalization. Further identification and characterization of tumor antigens is likely to have important implications for cancer diagnostic and biomarker discovery, immune profiling, and the development of cancer vaccines and targeted immunotherapies.
Keywords: antibody secreting cell; autoantibodies; biomarker; immune profile; tumor antigen.
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