T cell receptor richness in peripheral blood increases after cetuximab therapy and correlates with therapeutic response

Benjamin A. Kansy, Gulidanna Shayan, Hyun Bae Jie, Sandra P. Gibson, Yu L. Lei, Sven Brandau, Stephan Lang, Nicole C. Schmitt, Fei Ding, Yan Lin, Robert L. Ferris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The role of T cell receptor (TCR) signaling for adaptive immune responses is essential. The ability to respond to a broad spectrum of tumor antigens requires an adaptive selection of various TCR. So far, little is known about the role of TCR richness and clonality in the cellular immune response to head and neck cancer (HNC), though the Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR)-specific CD8+ T cell response can be enhanced by cetuximab therapy. Therefore, we investigated differences in TCR sequences between human papillomavirus (HPV)+ and HPV HNC patients, as well as differences in TCR sequence characteristics between T cells of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). Additionally, we were able to investigate the TCR richness and clonality in samples pre- and post- treatment in a prospective clinical trial of neoadjuvant cetuximab. Interestingly, HPV+ and HPV HNSCC did not significantly differ in the extent of TCR clonality and richness in PBMC or TIL. However, neoadjuvant cetuximab treatment increased the number of unique TCR sequences in PBMC (p = 0.0003), which was more prominent in the clinical responder patients compared to non-responders (p = 0.04). A trend toward TCR gene focusing was observed in TIL (p = 0.1) post-treatment. Thus, an increase in richness of TCR sequences in the periphery with a focusing at the tumor site is associated with an improved treatment response, suggesting an influence of peripheral quantity and intratumoral quality on adaptive immunity in cetuximab treated patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1494112
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2 2018


  • EGFR
  • TCR
  • cetuximab
  • cytotoxic T cells
  • head and neck cancer
  • immunosequencing
  • immunotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology


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