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Immunol Lett. 1991 Aug;29(3):181-9.

MHC antigens on human tumors.

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Departamento de Análisis Clínicos e Inmunología, Hospital Virgen de las Nieves, Universidad de Granada, Spain.


MHC class I antigens on tumor cells are expected to play an important role because they regulate the sensitivity to antitumoral immunological mechanisms. Overall or selective qualitative or quantitative changes in MHC molecules may modify the recognition of tumor cells by components of the immune system. It seems clear that MHC antigen expression on tumor cells is important in triggering the immune response by autologous lymphocytes. A deficiency in or lack of MHC class I antigens may have profound effects on T and NK cell activity. In experimental models, variation in the expression of MHC class I antigens has been shown to exert a decisive influence on local tumor growth and metastasis. However, there is little information about the influence of selective loss of individual locus products on the behavior of human tumor cells. Total and selective HLA losses have been found in a large variety of tumors, and different mechanisms have been shown to be responsible for these changes. In some examples, HLA losses are associated with a poor degree of tissue differentiation and poor prognosis. In other tumors, however, no such association has been found. We do not know whether HLA class II expression in neoplastic cells plays an immunological role, although, with the exception of melanoma, HLA class II expression is more frequently observed in tumors with a more favorable prognosis. Finally, there is no doubt that we need to learn more about how to manipulate the expression of MHC class I and II antigens in human tumors, in order to stimulate immune response.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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