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Cancer Res. 2006 Jun 15;66(12):6387-94.

Frequent loss of HLA-A2 expression in metastasizing ovarian carcinomas associated with genomic haplotype loss and HLA-A2-restricted HER-2/neu-specific immunity.

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Department of Oncology and Pathology, Immune and Gene Therapy Laboratory, Cancer Center Karolinska, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden.


Defective expression of HLA class I molecules is common in tumor cells and may allow escape from CTL-mediated immunity. We here investigate alterations in expression of HLA class I and their underlying molecular mechanisms in ovarian cancer patients. The HLA class I and HLA-A2 expression levels on noncultured tumor cells of 12 patients diagnosed with ovarian carcinoma were investigated by flow cytometry. Molecular analyses of antigen-processing machinery (APM) components were done in metastatic cancer cells, and the HLA genotype was determined in both these and the primary tumor. HER-2/neu-specific immunity was evaluated by enzyme-linked immunospot assays. The metastatic tumor cells from all patients expressed low levels of HLA class I surface antigens. In six of nine HLA-A2+ patients, HLA-A2 expression was heterogeneous with a subpopulation of tumor cells exhibiting decreased or absent HLA-A2 expression. One patient-derived tumor cell line completely lacked HLA-A2 but exhibited constitutive expression of APM components and high HLA class I expression that was further inducible by IFN-gamma treatment. Genotyping showed a haplotype loss in the metastatic tumor cells, whereas tumor tissue microdissected from the primary tumor exhibited an intact HLA gene complex. Interestingly, HLA-A2-restricted HER-2/neu-specific T-cell responses were evident among the lymphocytes of this patient. Abnormalities in HLA class I antigen expression are common features during the progression of ovarian cancer, and haplotype loss was, for the first time, described as an underlying mechanism.

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