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Int J Cancer. 2000 Aug 1;87(3):349-59.

HER-2/neu is expressed in human renal cell carcinoma at heterogeneous levels independently of tumor grading and staging and can be recognized by HLA-A2.1-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocytes.

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Third Department of Internal Medicine, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany.


The HER-2/neu oncoprotein, a 185 kDa membrane-associated tyrosine kinase with extensive homology to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGF-R), is overexpressed in breast and ovarian carcinomas. Its overexpression is closely associated with poor prognosis in the course of disease. Here we demonstrate HER-2/neu overexpression in both established cell lines and biopsy material obtained from renal epithelial tumors. Immunohistochemical analysis of human kidney tumor lesions using 2 HER-2/neu-specific antibodies revealed HER-2/neu expression in more than 40% of primary epithelial renal tumors and more than 30% of primary renal cell carcinoma (RCC) specimens. A distinctive HER-2/neu expression pattern was found in different subtypes of kidney tumors with the highest frequency in chromophilic and chromophobic RCC, but neither associated with disease stage nor tumor grade. Eight of 10 RCC cell lines expressed significant levels of HER-2/neu mRNA and protein, but at a lower level compared with HER-2/neu overexpressing ovarian carcinoma cells. To evaluate the immune response against HER-2/neu expressing HLA-A2-positive (HLA-A2(+)) RCC cells, allogeneic HLA-A2-restricted cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) lines generated by pulsing dendritic cells with 3 different HER-2/neu-derived peptides, (HER-2(9.369), HER-2(9.435) and HER-2(9.689), were utilized in chromium-release assays. Specific lysis of HER-2/neu expressing HLA-A2(+) RCC cell lines was mediated by CTL lines specific for each of these 3 HER-2/neu-derived epitopes. The fine specificity of 2 CTL clones was defined to the epitopes HER-2(9.435) and HER-2(9.689). Their specificity was then confirmed by cold target inhibition assays. In addition, CTL-mediated lysis was enhanced by pulsing tumor cells with exogenous HER-2/neu-specific peptides. Our data suggest that (i) HER-2/neu is heterogeneously expressed in different subtypes of RCC, (ii) HER-2/neu is naturally processed by RCC and (iii) HER-2/neu epitopes presented by RCC can be recognized by HLA-A2-restricted, HER-2/neu-specific CTL.

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