Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer with a poor prognosis and limited therapeutic options. Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), an established clinical biomarker of HCC, has been employed as an attractive target for T cell-based immunotherapy against this disease given its high expression in the tumor and restricted expression in normal tissues. We have identified a number of T cell receptors (TCRs) recognizing the HLA-A*02:01 restricted AFP158−166 peptide FMNKFIYEI, providing a TCR candidate pool for identifying TCRs with optimal clinical benefit. To select the ideal AFP TCR for clinical use, we evaluated the efficacy and safety profile of 7 TCRs by testing their potency toward AFP-expressing HCC cells and their specificity based upon reactivity to normal and transformed cells covering a wide variety of primary cell types and HLA serotypes. Furthermore, we assessed their cross-reactivity to potential protein candidates in the human genome by an extensive alanine scan (X-scan). We first selected three TCR candidates based on the in vitro anti-tumor activity. Next we eliminated two potential cross-reactive TCRs based on their reactivity against normal and transformed cells covering a variety of primary cell types and HLA serotypes, respectively. We then excluded the potential cross-reactivity of the selected TCR with a protein candidate identified by X-scan. At present we have selected an AFP TCR with the optimal affinity, function, and safety profile, bearing properties that are expected to allow AFP TCR redirected T cells to specifically differentiate between AFP levels on tumor and normal tissues. An early phase clinical trial using T cells transduced with this TCR to treat HCC patients (NCT03971747) has been initiated.
- T cell receptor (TCR)
- alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)
- hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy