ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202012.0160.v1
Subject: Keywords: melanoma; genetic whole cell therapeutic melanoma vaccine (AGI-101H); CD8+ T cells; melanoma antigens; ELISPOT
Online: 7 December 2020 (13:53:31 CET)
Healthy human subjects develop spontaneous CD8+ T cell responses to melanocyte antigens (MA) expressed by normal melanocytes, such as Tyrosinase, MAGE-A3, Melan/Mart-1, gp100, and NY-ESO-1. This natural autoimmunity directed against melanocytes might confer protection against the development of malignant melanoma (MM), where MA are present as overexpressed tumor-associated antigens. Consistent with this notion we report here that functional T cell reactivity to MA was found to be diminished in untreated MM patients: while 57.5% of healthy controls (n=40) exhibited high-frequency MA-specific T cell reactivity ex vivo, such was detected in only 12% of the untreated MM patients (n=24). Three lines of evidence suggest that the MA-reactive T cells present in healthy subjects undergo exhaustion once MM establishes itself. First, only the MA-specific T cell reactivity was affected in the MM patients; that to third party recall antigens was not. Second, in these patients, the residual MA-specific T cells, unlike third party antigen reactive T cells, were functionally impaired, showing a diminished per cell IFN-γ productivity. Third, successful immunotherapy with AGI-101H melanoma vaccine restored natural CD8+ T cell autoimmunity to MA in 85% of the vaccinated patients (n= 27). The role of natural T cell autoimmunity to tumor-associated MA is discussed based on discrete levels of T cell activation thresholds.