The recent success of checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) confirms that MCC tumors can be immunogenic. However, no treatment directly targeting the tumor is available for use in combination with these checkpoint inhibitors to enhance their efficacity. This study was carried out to characterize MCC line sensitivity to cellular lysis and to identify cell surface antigens that could be used for direct targeting of this tumor. For five representative MCC lines, the absence or low expression of MICA, MICB, HLA-I, and ICAM-1 was associated with low level of recognition by NK cells and T lymphocytes. However, expression of HLA-I and ICAM-1 and sensitivity to cellular lysis could be restored or increased after exposure to INFγ. We tested 41 antibodies specific for 41 different antigens using a novel antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) screening system for target antigens. Anti-CD326 (EpCAM) was the only antibody capable of inducing ADCC on the five MCC lines tested. Because MCC tumors are often directly accessible, local pharmacologic manipulation to restore HLA class-I and ICAM-1 cell surface expression (and thus sensitivity to cell lysis) can potentially benefit immune therapeutic intervention. In line with this, our observation that ADCC against EpCAM can induce lysis of MCC lines and suggests that therapeutic targeting of this antigen deserves to be explored further.
Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy – Springer Journals
Published: May 28, 2018
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