Neoantigens are critical targets of antitumor T-cell responses. The ATLAS bioas-say was developed to identify neoantigens empirically by expressing each unique patient-specific tumor mutation individually in Escherichia coli, pulsing autologous dendritic cells in an ordered array, and testing the patient’s T cells for recognition in an overnight assay. Profiling of T cells from patients with lung cancer revealed both stimulatory and inhibitory responses to individual neoantigens. In the murine B16F10 melanoma model, therapeutic immunization with ATLAS-identified stimulatory neoantigens protected animals, whereas immunization with peptides associated with inhibitory ATLAS responses resulted in accelerated tumor growth and abolished efficacy of an otherwise protective vaccine. A planned interim analysis of a clinical study testing a poly-ICLC adjuvanted personalized vaccine containing ATLAS-identified stimulatory neoantigens showed that it is well tolerated. In an adjuvant setting, immunized patients generated both CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses, with immune responses to 99% of the vaccinated peptide antigens. SIGNIFICANCE: Predicting neoantigens in silico has progressed, but empirical testing shows that T-cell responses are more nuanced than straightforward MHC antigen recognition. The ATLAS bioassay screens tumor mutations to uncover preexisting, patient-relevant neoantigen T-cell responses and reveals a new class of putatively deleterious responses that could affect cancer immunotherapy design.
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