Targeting cancer testis antigens in synovial sarcoma

J Immunother Cancer. 2021 Jun;9(6):e002072. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2020-002072.


Synovial sarcoma (SS) is a rare cancer that disproportionately affects children and young adults. Cancer testis antigens (CTAs) are proteins that are expressed early in embryonic development, but generally not expressed in normal tissue. They are aberrantly expressed in many different cancer types and are an attractive therapeutic target for immunotherapies. CTAs are expressed at high levels in SS. This high level of CTA expression makes SS an ideal cancer for treatment strategies aimed at harnessing the immune system to recognize aberrant CTA expression and fight against the cancer. Pivotal clinical trials are now underway, with the potential to dramatically alter the landscape of SS management and treatment from current standards of care. In this review, we describe the rationale for targeting CTAs in SS with a focus on NY-ESO-1 and MAGE-A4, the current state of vaccine and T-cell receptor-based therapies, and consider emerging opportunities for future development.

Keywords: biomarkers; immunotherapy; investigational; review; sarcoma; therapies; tumor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism*
  • Cancer Vaccines / pharmacology
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Sarcoma, Synovial / immunology*
  • Sarcoma, Synovial / therapy
  • T-Lymphocytes / transplantation
  • Up-Regulation* / drug effects
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • CTAG1B protein, human
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • MAGEA4 protein, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell