T cell recognition of novel shared breast cancer antigens is frequently observed in peripheral blood of breast cancer patients

Oncoimmunology. 2019 Sep 30;8(12):e1663107. doi: 10.1080/2162402X.2019.1663107. eCollection 2019.


Advances within cancer immunotherapy have fueled a paradigm shift in cancer treatment, resulting in increasing numbers of cancer types benefitting from novel treatment options. Despite originally being considered an immunologically silent malignancy, recent studies encourage the research of breast cancer immunogenicity to evaluate immunotherapy as a treatment strategy. However, the epitope landscape in breast cancer is minimally described, limiting the options for antigen-specific, targeted strategies. Aromatase, never in mitosis A-related kinase 3 (NEK3), protein inhibitor of activated STAT3 (PIAS3), and prolactin are known as upregulated proteins in breast cancer. In the present study, these four proteins are identified as novel T cell targets in breast cancer. From the four proteins, 147 peptides were determined to bind HLA-A*0201 and -B*0702 using a combined in silico/in vitro affinity screening. T cell recognition of all 147 peptide-HLA-A*0201/-B*0702 combinations was assessed through the use of a novel high-throughput method utilizing DNA barcode labeled multimers. T cell recognition of sequences within all four proteins was demonstrated in peripheral blood of patients, and significantly more T cell responses were detected in patients compared to healthy donors for both HLA-A*0201 and -B*0702. Notably, several of the identified responses were directed toward peptides, with a predicted low or intermediate binding affinity. This demonstrates the importance of including low-affinity binders in the search for epitopes within shared tumor associated antigens (TAAs), as these might be less subject to immune tolerance mechanisms. The study presents four novel TAAs containing multiple possible targets for immunotherapy of breast cancer.

Keywords: Breast cancer; TAAs; TAAs in breast cancer; breast cancer immunogenicity; immunomonitoring; overexpression antigens; shared tumor antigens; tumor associated antigens; tumor specific CD8+ T cells; tumor specific cytotoxic T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Grants and funding

This research was funded in part through the Independent Research fund Danmarks Frie Forskningsfond (DK) (Grant no. DFF – 4004-00422) and the European Research Council, StG 677268 NextDART.