Background: We previously demonstrated a progressive loss of the anti-human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) CD4+ T-helper type 1 (Th1) response during HER2pos breast tumorigenesis. This loss is associated with residual disease following neoadjuvant therapy and increased risk of recurrence. In this study, we assessed the fate of anti-HER3 Th1 immunity during breast tumorigenesis. Methods: Peripheral blood from 131 subjects, including healthy donors (HDs), patients with benign breast disease (BD), ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive breast cancer (IBC), was collected. Interferon (IFN)-γpos immune responses to four HER3-derived major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II promiscuous peptides were tested via enzyme-linked immunosorbent (ELISPOT) assays, and three immune response parameters were compared: anti-HER3 (i) responsivity, or proportion of subjects responding to at least one peptide; (ii) repertoire, or number of responding peptides; and (iii) cumulative response, or summed peptide response. Results: A significant decline in anti-HER3 Th1 response was observed going from HDs to IBC patients; patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) demonstrated the lowest responses. HDs had significantly higher Th1 responses versus estrogen receptor (ER)pos IBC and TNBC patients across all three immune parameters; HER2pos IBC patients displayed responses similar to HDs and BDs. Patients with recurrent breast cancer and residual disease following neoadjuvant therapy demonstrated significantly lower anti-HER3 Th1 immunity compared with patients without recurrence or with a pathologic complete response to neoadjuvant therapy. Conclusions: Anti-HER3 CD4+ Th1 responses decline during breast tumorigenesis, particularly in TNBC. Attempts to immunologically restore depressed responses in vulnerable subgroups may help mitigate recurrence.
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