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Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Mar 1;13(5):1421-8.

Sperm-associated antigen 9, a novel cancer testis antigen, is a potential target for immunotherapy in epithelial ovarian cancer.

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  • 1Genes and Proteins Laboratory, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, India.



Cancer testis antigens are a group of tumor antigens with gene expression restricted to male germ cells in the testis and in various cancerous tissues. Recently, we reported a novel testis-specific sperm-associated antigen 9 (SPAG9) gene, a new member of the c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase-interacting protein family, having functional role in sperm-egg fusion and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway. National Center for Biotechnology Information Blast searches revealed SPAG9 nucleotide sequence similarities with expressed sequence tags of various cancerous tissues. In an effort to examine the clinical utility of SPAG9, we investigated the SPAG9 mRNA and protein expression in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Humoral immune response to SPAG9 was also evaluated in EOC patients.


We determined the expression profile of SPAG9 transcript by reverse transcription-PCR and RNA in situ hybridization and SPAG9 protein expression by immunohistochemistry in EOC specimens and human ovarian cancer cell lines. Using ELISA and Western blotting, we analyzed specific antibodies for SPAG9 in sera from patients with EOC.


SPAG9 mRNA and protein expression was detected in 90% of EOC tissues and in all three human ovarian cancer cell lines. Specific SPAG9 antibodies were detected in 67% of EOC patients and not in sera from healthy individuals.


Our findings indicate that SPAG9 is highly expressed in EOC and immunogenic in patients. Humoral immune response against SPAG9 in early stages of EOC suggests its important role in early diagnostics. These results collectively suggest that SPAG9, a novel member of cancer testis antigen family, could be a potential target for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic methods in EOC.

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