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The Origin and Immune Recognition of Tumor-Specific Antigens.

Apavaloaei A, Hardy MP, Thibault P, Perreault C

Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC H3T 1J4, Canada.

The dominant paradigm holds that spontaneous and therapeutically induced anti-tumor responses are mediated mainly by CD8 T cells and directed against tumor-specific antigens (TSAs). The presence of specific TSAs on cancer cells can only be proven by mass spectrometry analyses. Bioinformatic predictions and reverse immunology studies cannot provide this type of conclusive evidence. Most TSAs are coded by unmutated non-canonical transcripts that arise from cancer-specific epigenetic and splicing aberrations. When searching for TSAs, it is therefore important to perform mass spectrometry analyses that interrogate not only the canonical reading frame of annotated exome but all reading frames of the entire translatome. The majority of aberrantly expressed TSAs (aeTSAs) derive from unstable short-lived proteins that are good substrates for direct major histocompatibility complex (MHC) I presentation but poor substrates for cross-presentation. This is an important caveat, because cancer cells are poor antigen-presenting cells, and the immune system, therefore, depends on cross-presentation by dendritic cells (DCs) to detect the presence of TSAs. We, therefore, postulate that, in the untreated host, most aeTSAs are undetected by the immune system. We present evidence suggesting that vaccines inducing direct aeTSA presentation by DCs may represent an attractive strategy for cancer treatment.

Cancers (Basel) 2020;12(9).

Pubmed ID: 32932620

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