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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2017 Jan;161(1):51-62. doi: 10.1007/s10549-016-4037-z. Epub 2016 Oct 27.

Peripheral T cell responses to tumour antigens are associated with molecular, immunogenetic and cellular features of breast cancer patients.

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Department of Internal Medicine II, University Hospital Tübingen, Waldhörnlestr. 22, 72072, Tübingen, Germany.
Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Center, Saint Savas Cancer Hospital, Athens, Greece.
Pathology Department, Saint Savas Cancer Hospital, Athens, Greece.
Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics Lab, Hellenic Cord Blood Bank- H&I Laboratory, Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, Athens, Greece.
Institute of Cancer Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, M20 4BX, UK.
School of Science and Technology, College of Arts and Science, Nottingham Trent University, Burton St, Nottingham, NG1 4BU, UK.
Department of Haematological Medicine, The Rayne Institute, King's College London, London, UK.
Department of Internal Medicine II, University Hospital Tübingen, Waldhörnlestr. 22, 72072, Tübingen, Germany.



Breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths in women, but despite steady improvements in therapies, treatment is still suboptimal. Immunotherapy holds promise as a more effective therapy for breast cancer; supporting this, our prior study showed that patients possessing HER2-reactive CD8+ T cells in blood experience survival superior to patients without these cells. Here, we define a composite set of biomarkers that identify patients with T cell responses to tumour antigens.


We assessed T cell responses following in vitro stimulation with the HER2, MUC1 and SUR tumour-associated antigens (TAA) by flow cytometry and intracellular cytokine staining in 50 breast cancer patients. We also measured HLA type, serum cytokines, tumour-infiltrating leukocytes and blood leukocyte populations.


We found few correlations between TAA-reactive T cells and HLA type, serum cytokines and tumour-infiltrating leukocytes, whereas blood leukocyte phenotypes broadly correlated with TAA responses. This showed monocytes, natural killer cells, dendritic cells and T cells to be inversely associated with both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells reactive to tumour antigens. Moreover, combining multiple parameters improved the accuracy in predicting patients with TAA-responsive T cells.


This study therefore defines composite immune profiles that identify patients responding to TAAs which may allow better personalisation of cancer therapies.


Blood leukocytes; Breast cancer; HER2; MUC1; Survivin; Tumour-associated antigen

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