Neoantigens are peptides derived from non-synonymous mutations presented by human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), which are recognized by antitumour T cells1-14. The large HLA allele diversity and limiting clinical samples have restricted the study of the landscape of neoantigen-targeted T cell responses in patients over their treatment course. Here we applied recently developed technologies15-17 to capture neoantigen-specific T cells from blood and tumours from patients with metastatic melanoma with or without response to anti-programmed death receptor 1 (PD-1) immunotherapy. We generated personalized libraries of neoantigen-HLA capture reagents to single-cell isolate the T cells and clone their T cell receptors (neoTCRs). Multiple T cells with different neoTCR sequences (T cell clonotypes) recognized a limited number of mutations in samples from seven patients with long-lasting clinical responses. These neoTCR clonotypes were recurrently detected over time in the blood and tumour. Samples from four patients with no response to anti-PD-1 also demonstrated neoantigen-specific T cell responses in the blood and tumour to a restricted number of mutations with lower TCR polyclonality and were not recurrently detected in sequential samples. Reconstitution of the neoTCRs in donor T cells using non-viral CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing demonstrated specific recognition and cytotoxicity to patient-matched melanoma cell lines. Thus, effective anti-PD-1 immunotherapy is associated with the presence of polyclonal CD8+ T cells in the tumour and blood specific for a limited number of immunodominant mutations, which are recurrently recognized over time.
© 2023. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.