Background: Pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP) is a rare, slow-growing abdominal cancer with no efficacious treatment options in non-resectable and recurrent cases. Otherwise, rare activating mutations in the GNAS oncogene are remarkably frequent in PMP and the mutated gene product, guanine nucleotide-binding protein α subunit (Gsα), is a potential tumor neoantigen, presenting an opportunity for targeting by a therapeutic cancer vaccine.
Methods: Tumor and blood samples were collected from 25 patients undergoing surgery for PMP (NCT02073500). GNAS mutation analysis was performed by next-generation targeted sequencing or digital droplet PCR. Responses to stimulation with Gsα mutated (point mutations R201H and R201C) 30 mer peptides were analyzed in peripheral blood T cells derived from patients with PMP and healthy donors. Fresh PMP tumor samples were analyzed by mass cytometry using a panel of 35 extracellular markers, and cellular subpopulations were clustered and visualized using the visual stochastic network embedding analysis tool.
Results: GNAS mutations were detected in 22/25 tumor samples (88%; R201H and R201C mutations detected in 16 and 6 cases, respectively). Strong T cell proliferation against Gsα mutated peptides was observed in 18/24 patients with PMP. Mass cytometry analysis of tumor revealed infiltration of CD3 +T cells in most samples, with variable CD4+:CD8 + ratios. A large proportion of T cells expressed immune checkpoint molecules, in particular programmed death receptor-1 and T cell immunoreceptor with Ig and ITIM, indicating that these T cells were antigen experienced.
Conclusion: These findings point to the existence of a pre-existing immunity in patients with PMP towards mutated Gsα, which has been insufficient to control tumor growth, possibly because of inhibition of antitumor T cells by upregulation of immune checkpoint molecules. The results form a rationale for exploring peptide vaccination with Gsα peptides in combination with immune checkpoint inhibiton as a possible curative treatment for PMP and other GNAS mutated cancers.
Keywords: immunogenicity; vaccine.
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