Neoantigen landscape in metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Theranostics. 2021 Apr 19;11(13):6427-6444. doi: 10.7150/thno.53229. eCollection 2021.


Background: Reportedly, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) patients with MHC I Class aberration are prone to poor survival outcomes, which indicates that the deficiency of tumor neoantigens might represent a mechanism of immune surveillance escape in NPC. Methods: To clearly delineate the landscape of neoantigens in NPC, we performed DNA and RNA sequencing on paired primary tumor, regional lymph node metastasis and distant metastasis samples from 26 patients. Neoantigens were predicted using pVACseq pipeline. Subtype prediction model was built using random forest algorithm. Results: Portraying the landscape of neoantigens in NPC for the first time, we found that the neoantigen load of NPC was above average compared to that of other cancers in The Cancer Genome Atlas program. While the quantity and quality of neoantigens were similar among primary tumor, regional lymph node metastasis and distant metastasis samples, neoantigen depletion was more severe in metastatic sites than in primary tumors. Upon tracking the clonality change of neoantigens, we found that neoantigen reduction occurred during metastasis. Building a subtype prediction model based on reported data, we observed that subtype I lacked T cells and suffered from severe neoantigen depletion, subtype II highly expressed immune checkpoint molecules and suffered from the least neoantigen depletion, and subtype III was heterogenous. Conclusions: These results indicate that neoantigens are conducive to the guidance of clinical treatment, and personalized therapeutic vaccines for NPC deserve deeper basic and clinical investigations to make them feasible in the future.

Keywords: metastasis; microenvironment; nasopharyngeal carcinoma; neoantigens; subtype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Female
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • HLA Antigens / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Humans
  • INDEL Mutation
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma / immunology
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma / secondary*
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma / therapy
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma / virology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / virology
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Progression-Free Survival
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Tumor Escape
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • DNA, Viral
  • HLA Antigens
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell