Jon Schiller via Israel21c – For cancer immunotherapy to be most effective, a patient’s immune system must be able to “see” the tumor in question.
“Hotspots” on cancer cells’ outer membranes can provide this service. These molecular structures contain mutated peptides called neoantigens that the immune system’s T cells recognize as foreign – the first step in binding to the neoantigens and killing the cancerous cells.
But only a handful of neoantigens qualify as hotspots. And they are hard to find because they are presented to the immune system by protein complexes that come in thousands of versions.
The Weizmann Institute of Science’s Prof. Yardena Samuels and her PhD student Aviyah Peri led a team using bioinformatics to develop a method for identifying features common to many tumors. This can help develop effective immunotherapy for entire groups of patients.
Their findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The scientists applied algorithms to search through international databases of the genomes of thousands of cancer patients. Focusing on melanoma, the main cancer type studied by the Samuels lab, they looked for common mutations presented by common protein complexes. The search produced several neoantigens that could potentially be considered hotspots.
Next, the scientists subjected these candidate molecules to laboratory analysis and investigated their interactions with T cells.