Pan-Cancer Analysis of Patient Tumor Single-Cell Transcriptomes Identifies Promising Selective and Safe Chimeric Antigen Receptor Targets in Head and Neck Cancer

Sanna Madan, Sanju Sinha, Tiangen Chang, J. Silvio Gutkind, Ezra E.W. Cohen, Alejandro A. Schäffer*, Eytan Ruppin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies have yielded transformative clinical successes for patients with blood tumors, but their full potential remains to be unleashed against solid tumors. One challenge is finding selective targets, which we define intuitively to be cell surface proteins that are expressed widely by cancer cells but minimally by healthy cells in the tumor microenvironment and other normal tissues. Analyzing patient tumor single-cell transcriptomics data, we first defined and quantified selectivity and safety scores of existing CAR targets for indications in which they are in clinical trials or approved. We then sought new candidate cell surface CAR targets that have better selectivity and safety scores than those currently being tested. Remarkably, in almost all cancer types, we could not find such better targets, testifying to the near optimality of the current target space. However, in human papillomavirus (HPV)-negative head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSC), for which there is currently a dearth of existing CAR targets, we identified a total of twenty candidate novel CAR targets, five of which have both superior selectivity and safety scores. These newly identified cell surface targets lay a basis for future investigations that may lead to better CAR treatments in HNSC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4885
JournalCancers
Volume15
Issue number19
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes

Funding

FundersFunder number
NCI-UMD
National Institutes of Health
National Cancer Institute

    Keywords

    • CAR-T
    • cell surface targets
    • clinical trials
    • glioblastoma
    • head and neck cancer
    • immunoreceptors
    • immunotherapy
    • single-cell RNA sequencing
    • solid tumors

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