CSPG4 Is a Potential Therapeutic Target in Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer.

TitleCSPG4 Is a Potential Therapeutic Target in Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsEgan CE, Stefanova D, Ahmed A, Raja VJ, Thiesmeyer JW, Chen KJ, Greenberg JA, Zhang T, He B, Finnerty BM, Zarnegar R, Jin MM, Scognamiglio T, Dephoure N, Fahey T, Min IM
Date Published2021 Jul 05

Anaplastic thyroid cancer (ATC) is a rare cancer with poor prognosis and few treatment options. The objective of this study was to investigate new immune-associated therapeutic targets by identifying ATC-derived, human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II-presenting peptides. One protein that generated multiple peptides in ATC was chondroitin sulfate-proteoglycan-4 (CSPG4), a transmembrane proteoglycan with increased expression in multiple aggressive cancers, but not yet investigated in ATC. We applied autologous peripheral blood T cells to ATC patient-derived xenografted mice to examine whether ATC induces a tumor-specific T cell response. We then identified peptide antigens eluted from the HLA-DQ complex in ATC patient-derived cells using mass spectrometry, detecting abundant CSPG4-derived peptides specific to the ATC sample. Next, we analyzed the surface expression level of CSPG4 in thyroid cancer cell lines and primary cell culture using flow cytometry. In addition, we used immunohistochemistry to compare the expression level and localization of the CSPG4 protein in ATC, papillary thyroid cancer, and normal thyroid tissue. We then investigated the correlation between CSPG4 expression and clinicopathological features of patients with thyroid cancer. We found that ATC tissue had a high level of HLA-DQ expression and that the patient's CD4 T cells showed activation when exposed to ATC. By eluting the HLA-DQ complex of ATC tissue, we found that CSPG4 generated one of the most abundant and specific peptides. CSPG4 expression at the cell surface of thyroid cancer was also significantly high when determined by flow cytometry, with the majority of ATC cell lines exhibiting ∼10-fold higher mean fluorescence intensity. Furthermore, most ATC patient cases expressed CSPG4 in the cytoplasm or membrane of the tumor cells. CSPG4 expression was correlated with tumor size, extrathyroidal extension, and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) circumferential expression. mRNA overexpression was associated with worse overall survival in patients with ATC and poorly differentiated thyroid cancer. CSPG4 expression is significantly elevated in aggressive thyroid cancers, with a strong correlation with a poor prognosis. The vast number of HLA-DQ eluted CSPG4 peptides was identified in ATC, demonstrating the potential of CSPG4 as a novel immunotherapeutic target for ATC.

Alternate JournalThyroid
PubMed ID34078123
Related Faculty: 
Theresa Scognamiglio, M.D.

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