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T cell receptor affinity and avidity defines antitumor response and autoimmunity in T cell immunotherapy

  • Michelle Krogsgaard1, 3, 7,
  • Shi Zhong1,
  • Karolina Malecek1, 6,
  • Laura A Johnson5,
  • Zhiya Yu2,
  • Eleazar Vega-Saenz de Miera7, 3,
  • Farbod Darvishian3,
  • Katelyn McGary-Shipper1, 6,
  • Kevin Huang1,
  • Joshua Boyer1,
  • Emily Corse4,
  • Yongzhao Shao8, 7,
  • Steven A Rosenberg2,
  • Nicholas P Restifo2 and
  • Iman Osman1, 9, 7
Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer20131(Suppl 1):P242

Published: 7 November 2013


MelanomaAntitumor ActivityTumor AntigenHuman MelanomaReceptor Affinity

T-cells have evolved the unique ability to discriminate "self" from "non-self" with high sensitivity and selectivity. However, tissue-specific autoimmunity, tolerance or eradication of cancer does not fit into the self/non-self paradigm because the T-cell responses in these situations are most often directed to non-mutated self-proteins. To determine the TCR affinity threshold defining the optimal balance between effective antitumor activity and autoimmunity in vivo, we used a novel self-antigen system comprised of seven human melanoma gp100209-217-specific TCRs spanning physiological affinities (1 to 100 μM). We found that in vitro and in vivo T cell responses are determined by TCR affinity. Strikingly, we found that T cell antitumor activity and autoimmunity are closely coupled but plateau at a defined TCR affinity of 10 µM, likely due to diminished contribution of TCR affinity to avidity above the threshold. Our results suggest a relatively low affinity threshold is necessary for the immune system to avoid self-damage given the close relationship between antitumor activity and autoimmunity. This, in turn, indicates that treatment strategies focusing on TCRs in the intermediate affinity range (KD ~10 μM) or targeting or targeting shared tumor antigens would dampen the potential for autoimmunity during adoptive T cell therapy for the treatment of cancer.

Authors’ Affiliations

NYU Cancer Institute, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA
Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, USA
Department of Pathology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA
Department of Immunology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA
Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
Program in Structural Biology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA
Interdisciplinary Melanoma Cooperative Group, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA
Division of Biostatistics, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA
Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, USA


© Krogsgaard et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.