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Immunol Rev. 1995 Jun;145:61-89.

MUC-1 epithelial tumor mucin-based immunity and cancer vaccines.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA 15261, USA.


Many obstacles still stand in the way to eliciting an effective immune response against cancer, even though several antigens and antigenic peptides have been identified as potential tumor targets. All of them, including the MUC-1 mucin, share the caveat of being normal cellular proteins. Unlike all the others, however, MUC-1 expressed on tumors can still be considered a truly tumor-specific antigen. Its expression on normal cells is hidden from the immune system, and its aberrant glycosylation on tumors creates new epitopes recognized by the immune system. Moreover, all other tumor targets identified so far are MHC-restricted peptides that can only be recognized by patients who carry a specific HLA type, or on tumors which continue to express particular HLA alleles. MUC-1 is powerfully different. Recognized as a native molecule independent of MHC, it is a universal immunogen and a universal target, and if made effectively immunogenic, it would be expected to elicit immune responses in all patients, and against numerous MUC-1 expressing human tumors. It may, in fact, be the extraordinary solution to an extraordinary problem of cancer immunity and immunotherapy.

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