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Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Jul 1;13(13):3840-7.

Detection of MAGE-A transcripts in bone marrow is an independent prognostic factor in operable non-small-cell lung cancer.

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Department of Thoracic Surgery, Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.



MAGE-A gene expression in humans is mostly restricted to tumor cells, and the role of MAGE-A transcripts and peptides as diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets is currently under investigation. Thus far, the clinical relevance of MAGE-A transcripts as marker for disseminated tumor cells in bone marrow of patients with operable lung cancer without overt metastases is still unclear.


Preoperative bone marrow aspirates from 50 consecutive patients with operable non-small-cell lung cancer free of distant metastases (i.e., pT(1-4) pN(0-2) M(0) R(0)) were admitted to the study. Each bone marrow sample was divided and examined using multimarker MAGE-A reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) and immunocytochemical staining with the anti-pancytokeratin antibody A45-B/B3. Multimarker MAGE-A RT-PCR consisted of multiple subtype-specific nested RT-PCRs with primers for MAGE-A1, MAGE-A2, MAGE-A3/6, MAGE-A4, and MAGE-A12. The median follow-up duration was 92 months (range, 18-110 months).


Twenty-six (52%) lung cancer patients harbored MAGE-A transcripts in their bone marrow, as opposed to none of the 30 healthy controls tested. In all 7 patients with immunocytochemically positive bone marrow, MAGE-A transcripts were also detected. All different MAGE-A subtypes (MAGE-A1, MAGE-A2, MAGE-A3/6, MAGE-A4, and MAGE-A12) were observed. Sixty-five percent of patients with MAGE-A transcripts in bone marrow exhibited only one subtype. Univariate (P = 0.03, log-rank-test) and multivariate survival analysis showed that MAGE-A transcripts in bone marrow were associated with poor outcome in pN(0) patients (P = 0.02; relative risk, 7.6).


Detection of MAGE-A transcripts in bone marrow predicts an unfavorable outcome in patients with early-stage operable lung cancer. This finding indicates that MAGE-A transcripts are clinically relevant markers of micrometastatic spread in lung cancer and supports further investigation of MAGE-A as potential future therapeutic target.

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