The double-edged sword of cancer mutations: Exploiting neoepitopes for the fight against cancer

Isabel Alvarado-Cruz, Rithy Meas, Sesha Lakshmi Arathi Paluri, Kelly Estelle Wheeler Carufe, Mohammed Khan, Joann Balazs Sweasy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Defects in DNA repair have been linked to the accumulation of somatic mutations in tumours. These mutations can promote oncogenesis; however, recent developments have indicated that they may also lead to a targeted immune response against the tumour. This response is initiated by the development of new antigenic epitopes (neoepitopes) arising from mutations in protein-coding genes that are processed and then presented on the surface of tumour cells. These neoepitopes are unique to the tumour, thus enabling lymphocytes to launch an immune response against the cancer cells. Immunotherapies, such as checkpoint inhibitors (CPIs) and tumour-derived vaccines, have been shown to enhance the immunogenic response to cancers and have led to complete remission in some cancer patients.There are tumours that are not responsive to immunotherapy or conventional tumour therapeutics; therefore, there is a push for new treatments to combat these unresponsive cancers. Recently, combinatorial treatments have been developed to further utilise the immune system in the fight against cancer. These treatments have the potential to exploit the defects in DNA repair by inducing more DNA damage and mutations.This can potentially lead to the expression of high levels of neoepitopes on the surface of tumour cells that will stimulate an immunological response. Overall, exploiting DNA repair defects in tumours may provide an edge in this long fight against cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-77
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Toxicology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'The double-edged sword of cancer mutations: Exploiting neoepitopes for the fight against cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this