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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Mar 1975; 72(3): 1012–1016.
PMCID: PMC432454

Immunological escape mechanism in spontaneously metastasizing mammary tumors.


Immunological and biochemical studies of spontaneously metastasizing and nonmetastasizing rat mammary carcinomas and their plasma membranes indicated that: (i) all spontaneously metastasizing tumors have little or no demonstrable glycocalyx, while all nonmetastasizing tumors have a thick glycocalyx; (ii) there is a direct relationship between the glycocalyx and immunogenicity, and an inverse relationship with the metastasizing capacity of tumor cells, properties which can be quantitated by levels of the plasma membrane marker enzyme 5'-nucleotidase (EC3.1.3.5;5'-ribonucleotide phosphohydrolase) activity; (iii) the absence of glycocalyx from the metastasizing tumor cell surface seems to result from its dissociation from plasma membranes, for solubilized cell surface antigen is readily found in the blood of metastasizing tumor bearing rats, while there was no detectable tumor cell surface antigen in the blood of the nonmetastasizing tumor hosts tested; (iv) both metastasizing and nonmetastasizing mammary tumors appear to have a common soluble cell surface antigen; (v) in addition to this common antigen, there is another membrane-bound antigen in the nonmetastasizing, immunogenic tumor cell surface which presumably is the tumor specific transplantation antigen; and (vi) this antigen is immunobiologically unique, but seems to be immunochemically related to the common soluble antigen. It is postulated that the lack of an immunogenic coat and/or the presence of solubilized tumor cell surface antigen in the blood may provide an immune escape mechanism for tumor cells by interfering with cell-mediated immune response of tumor hosts, leading to their dissemination.

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