Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Boon, Thierry
Location Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Ltd.
Primary Field Immunology and Inflammation
Secondary Field Genetics
 Election Citation
Boon has dominated cancer immunology research by identifying antigens that tumor cells produce to alert patrolling cytotoxic T cells. He revolutionized the field through his structural identification of mouse and human tumor antigens, including the MAGE family, tyrosinase, and melanin A, discoveries that opened the way for the development of cancer vaccines.
 Research Interests
As a geneticist I have studied how treatments with mutagens cause mouse tumor cells to acquire new antigens recognized by cytolytic T lymphocytes. We developed a general approach to clone genes coding for antigens defined as targets of cytolytic T cell clones. This led us to demonstrate the existence of an immunosurveillance mechanism of the integrity of the mammalian genome, whereby point mutations as well as the expression of new genes generate new antigenic peptides recognized by T cells on major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. These approaches were then extended to human tumors. We showed that human tumor cells carry at least two classes of antigens that are strictly tumor-specific. A first class of antigens shared by many tumors is encoded by cancer-germline genes which are not expressed on any normal cell except germline cells, which express the genes but not the antigen as they do not carry MHC molecules. The prototype of this class is the Mage gene family. A second class of tumor-specific antigens results from point mutations which, in many instances, are also oncogenic.

 
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