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neoantigenR: An annotation based pipeline for tumor neoantigen identification from sequencing data

By Shaojun Tang, Subha Madhavan

Posted 08 Aug 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/171843

Studies indicate that more than 90% of human genes are alternatively spliced, suggesting the complexity of the transcriptome assembly and analysis. The splicing process is often disrupted, resulting in both functional and non-functional end-products (Sveen et al. 2016) in many cancers. Harnessing the immune system to fight against malignant cancers carrying aberrantly mutated or spliced products is becoming a promising approach to cancer therapy. Advances in immune checkpoint blockade have elicited adaptive immune responses with promising clinical responses to treatments against human malignancies (Tumor Neoantigens in Personalized Cancer Immunotherapy 2017). Emerging data suggest that recognition of patient-specific mutation-associated cancer antigens (i.e. from alternative splicing isoforms) may allow scientists to dissect the immune response in the activity of clinical immunotherapies (Schumacher and Schreiber 2015). The advent of high-throughput sequencing technology has provided a comprehensive view of both splicing aberrations and somatic mutations across a range of human malignancies, allowing for a deeper understanding of the interplay of various disease mechanisms. Meanwhile, studies show that the number of transcript isoforms reported to date may be limited by the short-read sequencing due to the inherit limitation of transcriptome reconstruction algorithms, whereas long-read sequencing is able to significantly improve the detection of alternative splicing variants since there is no need to assemble full-length transcripts from short reads. The analysis of these high-throughput long-read sequencing data may permit a systematic view of tumor specific peptide epitopes (also known as neoantigens) that could serve as targets for immunotherapy (Tumor Neoantigens in Personalized Cancer Immunotherapy 2017). Currently, there is no software pipeline available that can efficiently produce mutation-associated cancer antigens from raw high-throughput sequencing data on patient tumor DNA (The Problem with Neoantigen Prediction 2017). In addressing this issue, we introduce a R package that allows the discoveries of peptide epitope candidates, which are the tumor-specific peptide fragments containing potential functional neoantigens. These peptide epitopes consist of structure variants including insertion, deletions, alternative sequences, and peptides from nonsynonymous mutations. Analysis of these precursor candidates with widely used tools such as netMHC allows for the accurate in-silico prediction of neoantigens. The pipeline named neoantigeR is currently hosted in https://github.com/ICBI/neoantigeR.

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