PepTalk: Neoantigens - Getting Personal

Oftentimes, the modus operandi in treating illness and disease is using a one-size fits all approach. However, as scientists learn more about the complexities of the human body, one comes to realize that there are many variables that can derail a treatment plan. In the case of cancer, where there may be several causes and factors that create an individual immune response, a personalized approach may be the best avenue. The term neoantigen is an amalgam of neo, for new to the immune system, and antigen, a compound that generates an immune response.1 Peptides often play the role of antigen, stimulating antibody formation. Both viral proteins and cancerous tumors can generate neoantigens and the immune system’s role in cancer has been studied since the early 1900’s, starting with Paul Ehrlich. In the response to a tumor, the immune system and tumor generate a variety of neoantigens, including some which target the tumor and others that suppress the anti-tumor immune response. By focusing on tumor-targeting peptides, a neoantigen vaccine offers a beneficial therapy option. Furthermore, since many factors may affect an individual’s immune response, adding personalized neoantigens to a vaccine can strengthen the body’s recognition and beneficial response after vaccination.2,3


  2. M. D. Hellman & A. Snyder, Immunity, 47, 221 (2017).


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