Preferentially expressed antigen in melanoma (PRAME) is a well-validated target for T cell-based immunotherapy in leukemias and solid tumors. PRAME is a retinoic acid receptor binding protein that prevents retinoic acid-mediated differentiation, proliferation arrest, and apoptosis. As a cancer-testis antigen, PRAME has limited expression in healthy adult tissue that is restricted to the testes, ovaries, and endometrium. However, PRAME is over-expressed in multiple cancers including ALL, AML, melanomas, and breast cancers, making it a specific and highly attractive therapeutic target. PRAME is an intracellular protein making it impossible to target using traditional antibodies and it is not currently druggable. After proteasomal processing, the PRAME300-309 peptide is presented on the cell surface in the context of HLA*A02:01 molecules, for recognition by CD8 T cells. We therefore hypothesized that a TCR-mimic (TCRm) monoclonal antibody that recognizes surface PRAME300-309 presented by HLA*A02:01 could have therapeutic activity. Here, we describe Pr20, a therapeutic TCRm antibody, specific for the PRAME300-309 peptide in complex with HLA*A02:01, identified through a human scFv phage display library screen. Pr20 was engineered into full length human IgG1. Pr20 exhibited specific binding to PRAME300-309 -pulsed TAP-deficient T2 cells and bound PRAME+/ HLA*A02:01+ Ph+ ALL and AML, demonstrating that endogenously presented PRAME300-309 could be recognized by Pr20. Pr20 was determined to have 4 nM binding affinity by scatchard plot analysis. The specific epitope was mapped using alanine substitutions of non-anchor residues in the PRAME300-309 peptide and determined to primarily require the C-terminal residues. Pr20M, an afucosylated form of the antibody with enhanced Fc binding, mediated antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) in-vitro in a PRAME+/ HLA*A02:01+ restricted manner. Pharmacokinetic studies in C57BL/6 mice indicated that Pr20M was stable in-vivo and biodistribution studies in HLA*A02:01 transgenic mice suggested that there was no significant antibody sink. Pr20M was therapeutically active in established xenograft leukemia models in NSG mice (T, B, and NK-deficient). Interestingly, Pr20 binding to PRAME+/HLA*A02:01+ melanomas was minimally detectable, but was dramatically increased upon treatment with IFNγ, which also led to an increased sensitivity to ADCC. The data provide rationale for developing TCRm antibodies against intracellular oncoproteins as therapeutics.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.