Product(s) used in this publication: PepMix™ Peptide Pools
Disseminated or relapsed Ewing sarcoma (EwS) has remained fatal in the majority of patients. A promising approach to preventing relapse after conventional therapy is to establish tumor antigen-specific immune control. Efficient and specific T cell memory against the tumor depends on the expansion of rare T cells with native specificity against target antigens overexpressed by the tumor. Candidate antigens in EwS include six-transmembrane epithelial antigen of the prostate-1 (STEAP1), and the human cancer/testis antigens X-antigen family member 1 (XAGE1) and preferentially expressed antigen in melanoma (PRAME). Here, we screened normal donors and EwS patients for the presence of circulating T cells reactive with overlapping peptide libraries of these antigens by IFN-γ Elispot analysis. The majority of 22 healthy donors lacked detectable memory T cell responses against STEAP1, XAGE1 and PRAME. Moreover, ex vivo detection of T cells specific for these antigens in both blood and bone marrow were limited to a minority of EwS patients and required nonspecific T cell prestimulation. Cytotoxic T cells specific for the tumor-associated antigens were efficiently and reliably generated by in vitro priming using professional antigen-presenting cells and optimized cytokine stimulation; however, these T cells failed to interact with native antigen processed by target cells and with EwS cells expressing the antigen. We conclude that EwS-associated antigens fail to induce efficient T cell receptor (TCR)-mediated antitumor immune responses even under optimized conditions. Strategies based on TCR engineering could provide a more effective means to manipulating T cell immunity toward targeted elimination of tumor cells.