Needle in a Haystack: The Naive Repertoire as a Source of T Cell Receptors for Adoptive Therapy with Engineered T Cells

D'Ippolito, E., Wagner, K. I., and Busch, D. H. (2020). Int J Mol Sci 21. doi: 10.3390/ijms21218324


T cell engineering with antigen-specific T cell receptors (TCRs) has allowed the generation of increasingly specific, reliable, and versatile T cell products with near-physiological features. However, a broad applicability of TCR-based therapies in cancer is still limited by the restricted number of TCRs, often also of suboptimal potency, available for clinical use. In addition, targeting of tumor neoantigens with TCR-engineered T cell therapy moves the field towards a highly personalized treatment, as tumor neoantigens derive from somatic mutations and are extremely patient-specific. Therefore, relevant TCRs have to be de novo identified for each patient and within a narrow time window. The naïve repertoire of healthy donors would represent a reliable source due to its huge diverse TCR repertoire, which theoretically entails T cells for any antigen specificity, including tumor neoantigens. As a challenge, antigen-specific naïve T cells are of extremely low frequency and mostly of low functionality, making the identification of highly functional TCRs finding a "needle in a haystack." In this review, we present the technological advancements achieved in high-throughput mapping of patient-specific neoantigens and corresponding cognate TCRs and how these platforms can be used to interrogate the naïve repertoire for a fast and efficient identification of rare but therapeutically valuable TCRs for personalized adoptive T cell therapy.