First published January 23, 2018 - More info
T cells specific for neoantigens encoded by mutated genes in cancers are increasingly recognized as mediators of tumor destruction after immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy or adoptive cell transfer. Unfortunately, most neoantigens result from random mutations and are patient specific, and some cancers contain few mutations to serve as potential antigens. We describe a patient with stage IV acral melanoma who obtained a complete response following adoptive transfer of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). Tumor exome sequencing surprisingly revealed less than 30 somatic mutations, including oncogenic BRAF V600E. Analysis of the specificity of TIL identified rare CD4 T cells specific for BRAFV600E and diverse CD8 T cells reactive to non-mutated self-antigens. These specificities increased in blood after TIL transfer and persisted long term suggesting they contributed to the effective antitumor immune response. Gene transfer of the BRAFV600E-specific T cell receptor (TCR) conferred recognition of class II MHC positive cells expressing the BRAF mutation. Therapy with TCR engineered BRAFV600E-specific CD4+ T cells may have direct antitumor effects and augment CD8+ T cell responses to self and/or mutated tumor antigens in patients with BRAF mutated cancers.