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BACKGROUND: Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and malignant primary brain tumor in adults. Despite maximal treatment, median survival remains dismal at 14-24 months. Immunotherapies, such as checkpoint inhibition, have revolutionized management of some cancers but have little benefit for GBM patients. This is, in part, due to the low mutational and neoantigen burden in this immunogenically "cold" tumor. METHODS: U87MG and patient-derived cell lines were treated with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) and underwent whole-exome and transcriptome sequencing. Cell lines were then subjected to cellular assays with neoantigen and cancer testis antigen (CTA) specific T cells. RESULTS: We demonstrate that DAC increases neoantigen and CTA mRNA expression through DNA hypomethylation. This results in increased neoantigen presentation by MHC class I in tumor cells, leading to increased neoantigen- and CTA-specific T-cell activation and killing of DAC-treated cancer cells. In addition, we show that patients have endogenous cancer-specific T cells in both tumor and blood, which show increased tumor-specific activation in the presence of DAC-treated cells. CONCLUSIONS: Our work shows that DAC increases GBM immunogenicity and consequent susceptibility to T-cell responses in vitro. Our results support a potential use of DAC as a sensitizing agent for immunotherapy.

Original publication




Journal article


Neuro Oncol

Publication Date





2093 - 2106


decitabine, glioblastoma, immunotherapy, neoantigen, tumor immunology, Adult, Male, Humans, Glioblastoma, Decitabine, Antigens, Neoplasm, T-Lymphocytes, Testis, Cell Line, Tumor