Developmentally Regulated Antigens for Immunologic Targeting of Molecular Subtypes of Medulloblastoma
Medulloblastoma (MB) remains incurable in one third of patients despite aggressive multi-modality standard therapies. The heterogeneity of MB molecular subtypes as well as the failure of standard therapies to treat metastatic or recurrent disease necessitates more potent targeted approaches that minimize collateral toxicity. Immunotherapy presents a promising strategy by specifically targeting cancer cells and to date, there have been few successful immunologic applications targeting MB. Emerging evidence from integrated genomic studies has suggested MB variants arise from deregulation of pathways affecting the proliferation and differentiation of progenitor cell populations within the developing cerebellum. To test the developing cerebellum as a source of tumor rejection antigens, we adapted two animal models of MB recapitulating human Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) and Group 3 tumors for immunotherapeutic evaluation. Immunologic characterization of these murine models revealed subtype-specific differences in the tumor microenvironment and a differential response to immune checkpoint blockade. We used total embryonic RNA from the developing mouse cerebellum (P5) to generate antigen-specific T cells and confirmed the immunogenicity of targeting developmentally regulated antigens in vitro. Developmental antigen-specific T cells produced high levels of Th1-type cytokines in response to two immunologically distinct subtypes of MB. Interestingly, developmental antigen specific T cells did not show any cross reactivity with the normal brain or subsequent stages of the developing brain after P5. Targeting developmental antigens conferred a significant survival benefit and long term cures in intracranial treatment models of SHH and Group 3 tumor bearing animals. We additionally tested whether the enrichment of select developmental antigens through the exclusion of normal brain transcripts would potentiate antitumor responses in both animal models. Finally, we evaluated the relevance of targeting fetal antigens across human MB subtypes. Our studies demonstrate that developmental antigens can safely target multiple MB subtypes and can be further refined to preferentially target individual subgroups. Further studies targeting immunogenic developmental antigens and leveraging this strategy with specific immune modulatory interventions represent a novel approach at utilizing patient molecular classification information to mediate safe and effective immunotherapy.
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