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Int J Cancer. 2005 May 1;114(5):756-65.

Protein from intestinal Eimeria protozoan stimulates IL-12 release from dendritic cells, exhibits antitumor properties in vivo and is correlated with low intestinal tumorigenicity.

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Barros Research Institute, Holt, MI 48842, USA.


The small intestine (SI) of vertebrates exhibits low tumorigenesis and rarely supports metastatic growth from distant tumors. Many theories have been proposed to address this phenomenon, but none has been consistently supported. One candidate mechanism is that the vast immunologic compartment of the SI provides a heightened level of tumor immunosurveillance. Consistent with this, we have identified a molecule of low abundance from bovine SI that has the hallmarks of a potent immunostimulant and may be associated with the natural suppression of cancer in the intestinal tract. The protein originates from an endemic gut protozoan, Eimeria spp., and is homologous to the antigen 3-1E previously isolated from the avian apicomplexan E. acervulina. We show here that it is a very potent stimulator of IL-12 release from dendritic cells, upregulates inflammatory modulators in vivo (IL-12, MCP-1, IL-6, TNF-alpha and INF-gamma) and has antitumor properties in mice. In addition, it is synergistic in vitro with anti-CD40 antibody, IFN-gamma, IL-4 and GM-CSF; is active across species barriers in vivo; and has no observable toxicity. Based on these activities, we speculate that it is an inducer of protozoan-targeted innate immunity, which may explain its potential benefit to the intestinal tract and potency as an agent in cancer immunotherapy.

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