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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Feb;88(2):748-54.

Analysis of cancer/testis antigens in sporadic medullary thyroid carcinoma: expression and humoral response to NY-ESO-1.

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Cancer Bioimmunotherapy Unit, Department of Medical Oncology, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, 33081 Aviano, Italy.


Cancer/testis antigens (CTA) are tumor-associated antigens expressed during ontogenesis, in a number of solid tumors but not in normal tissues except testis. Most of these CTA are highly immunogenic, eliciting a humoral and cellular response in the patients with advanced cancer, and are useful for tumor-specific immunotherapy. Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) is a neoplasm derived from the parafollicular cells of the thyroid and occurs in either a sporadic or a familial form. In the present study, we examined by RT-PCR the expression of a number of genes encoding CTA in 23 surgical samples of sporadic MTC. Among the 11 cDNA antigens examined, RAGE, MAGE-4, and GAGE 1-2, were not expressed in any of the tissues. SSX 2 was present only in one tissue, whereas BAGE, GAGE 1-6, MAGE-1, MAGE-2, MAGE-3, and SSX 1-5 were detected in two to five samples. NY-ESO-1 cDNA was the most frequent, being detected in 15 of 23 examined samples (65.2%). Six (26.1%) tissues did not express any CTA-specific mRNA, whereas 10 tumors expressed only one gene (43.5%), 3 (21.4%) expressed 2 genes, and 4 displayed a broad CTA gene expression. NY-ESO-1 expression in primary MTC tissues significantly correlated with tumor recurrence. The presence of specific anti-NY-ESO-1 antibodies was searched in the sera of MTC-affected patients examined by ELISA using recombinant NY-ESO-1 protein. A humoral response against this CTA was detected in 6 of 11 NY-ESO-1 expressing patients (54.5%), and in 1 of 6 patients with NY-ESO-1-negative tumor. No anti-NY-ESO-1 antibodies were detected in healthy subjects (n = 17). The presence of anti-NY-ESO-1 antibodies was searched also in the sera of MTC affected patients whose tissues were not available for CTA analysis. Anti-NY-ESO-1 antibodies were present in 15 of 42 sera (35.7%), demonstrating that MTC is a neoplasm frequently associated with humoral immune response to NY-ESO-1. Serological survey may be useful as a way to identify patients with humoral immune response to NY-ESO-1 that provide a new attractive target for vaccine-based immunotherapy of MTC.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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