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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Mar 18;100(6):3398-403. Epub 2003 Mar 7.

Melanoma inhibitor of apoptosis protein (ML-IAP) is a target for immune-mediated tumor destruction.

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Department of Adult Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, 44 Binney Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The identification of antigens associated with tumor destruction is a major goal of cancer immunology. Vaccination with irradiated tumor cells engineered to secrete granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor generates potent, specific, and long-lasting antitumor immunity through improved tumor antigen presentation by dendritic cells and macrophages. A phase I clinical trial of this immunization strategy in patients with disseminated melanoma revealed the consistent induction in distant metastases of dense T and B cell infiltrates that effectuated substantial tumor necrosis and fibrosis. To delineate the target antigens of this vaccine-stimulated tumor destruction, we screened a melanoma cDNA expression library with postimmunization sera from a long-term responding patient (K030). High-titer IgG antibodies recognized melanoma inhibitor of apoptosis protein (ML-IAP), a caspase antagonist containing a single baculoviral IAP repeat and a COOH-terminal RING domain. Although K030 harbored antibodies to ML-IAP at the time of study entry, multiple courses of vaccination over 4 years increased antibody titers and elicited isotype switching. Moreover, lymphocyte infiltrates in necrotic metastases included CD4+ and CD8+ T cells specific for ML-IAP, as revealed by proliferation, tetramer, enzyme-linked immunospot, and cytotoxicity analysis. Whereas melanoma cells in densely infiltrated lesions showed strong ML-IAP expression by immunohistochemistry, lethal disease progression was associated with the loss of ML-IAP staining and the absence of lymphocyte infiltrates. These findings demonstrate that ML-IAP can serve as a target for immune-mediated tumor destruction, but that antigen-loss variants can accomplish immune escape.

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