JCI insight 2018 10 043(19) doi 10.1172/jci.insight.122467
Adoptive cell transfer (ACT) of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) targeting neoantigens can mediate tumor regression in selected patients with metastatic epithelial cancer. However, effectively identifying and harnessing neoantigen-reactive T cells for patient treatment remains a challenge and it is unknown whether current methods to detect neoantigen-reactive T cells are missing potentially clinically relevant neoantigen reactivities. We thus investigated whether the detection of neoantigen-reactive TILs could be enhanced by enriching T cells that express PD-1 and/or T cell activation markers followed by microwell culturing to avoid overgrowth of nonreactive T cells. In 6 patients with metastatic epithelial cancer, this method led to the detection of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells targeting 18 and 1 neoantigens, respectively, compared with 6 and 2 neoantigens recognized by CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, respectively, when using our standard TIL fragment screening approach. In 2 patients, no recognition of mutated peptides was observed using our conventional screen, while our high-throughput approach led to the identification of 5 neoantigen-reactive T cell receptors (TCRs) against 5 different mutations from one patient and a highly potent MHC class II-restricted KRASG12V-reactive TCR from a second patient. In addition, in a metastatic tumor sample from a patient with serous ovarian cancer, we isolated 3 MHC class II-restricted TCRs targeting the TP53G245S hot-spot mutation. In conclusion, this approach provides a highly sensitive platform to isolate clinically relevant neoantigen-reactive T cells or their TCRs for cancer treatment.