Neoantigen-reactive T cells are considered to be crucial mediators for anti-tumor activity in adoptive T cell transfer (ACT) immunotherapy although the efficacy of ACT using in vitro expanded tumor-infiltrating T lymphocytes (TILs) has been limited. Since characterization of T cell receptor (TCR) repertoires of TILs before and after in vitro expansion has not well investigated, we in present study performed whole exome sequencing (WES) and transcriptome analysis, and selected candidate neoantigen epitopes to induce cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in 20 patients with head and neck cancer (10 frozen tissues and 10 freshly resected tumors). 36 potential neoantigen peptides including missense somatic mutations were examined for induction of neoantigen-reactive cytotoxic T cells in vitro using patients' derived dendritic cells. We have so far confirmed three neoantigen-reactive T cells and obtained the sequence information of a pair of TCR alpha and beta chains, which were identical to those identified in resident dominant TILs in the original tumors. We cloned the TCR genes into T lymphocytes and constructed the neoantigen-reactive T-cell receptor-engineered (TCR-engineered) T cells, which showed HLA-restricted neoantigen-reactive cytotoxic activity. In addition, we compared the TCR composition of TILs before/after in vitro expansion in 10 fresh head and neck cancers, and found that TCR clonotypes in original TILs and in vitro expanded TILs are drastically different except for those between expanded CD8 cells and resident TILs in three tumors, which had unusually high mutational burden due to mutations in the mismatch repair genes (MSH2, MSH6) or a DNA polymerase (POLE) gene. Our data also suggest that some expanded TILs are likely to be cancer-specific T cells and may be good cell sources for ACT immunotherapy and that the mutational load might be a good biomarker to screen effective TIL treatment. We demonstrate establishment of an effective and rapid protocol to generate neoantigen-specific T cells and to identify neoantigen-specific TCRs for individual patients, which makes TCR-engineered T cells applicable for the clinical use.

Citation Format: Lili Ren, Tatsuo Matsuda, Boya Deng, Kazuma Kiyotani, Taigo Kato, Jae-Hyun Park, Tanguy Seiwert, Everett Vokes, Nishant Agrawal, Yusuke Nakamura. Screening of neoantigen-specific T cells in head and neck cancer and establishment of T-cell receptor-engineered T cells with cytotoxic reactivity [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2018; 2018 Apr 14-18; Chicago, IL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2018;78(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 963.