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Am J Pathol. 2011 Mar;178(3):1009-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2010.11.047.

Sperm-associated antigen 9 is a novel biomarker for colorectal cancer and is involved in tumor growth and tumorigenicity.

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Cancer Microarray, Genes and Proteins Laboratory, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, India.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common tumor in developed countries. The present study was undertaken to determine the expression of the sperm-associated antigen 9 gene (SPAG9) as a possible biomarker in CRC, to investigate its correlation with humoral immune response and different stages and grades in CRC patients, and to explore its possible role in colon tumorigenesis in vitro and in an in vivo mouse model. SPAG9 expression was determined by RT-PCR, in situ RNA hybridization, and immunohistochemistry. Humoral response against SPAG9 was detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blotting. SPAG9 gene silencing was performed using plasmid-based small interfering RNA to study various malignant properties of colon cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. The majority of CRC patients showed SPAG9 expression and generated humoral response. There was a close relationship between SPAG9 protein expression and humoral immune response in the majority of early-stage CRC patients, indicating that anti-SPAG9 antibodies could be a novel serum biomarker for early diagnosis. The down-regulation of SPAG9 (mediated by small interfering RNA) inhibited malignant properties in in vitro and significantly suppressed tumor growth in vivo. These findings collectively suggest that SPAG9 may have a role in tumor development and early spread and thus could serve as a novel target for early detection and for cancer immunotherapy.

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