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Am J Blood Res. 2012;2(1):29-35. Epub 2012 Jan 1.

Cancer-testis antigens: the current status on antigen regulation and potential clinical use.

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Amarillo Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, Texas Oncology-Amarillo, Cancer Center TX, USA.


Immunotherapy is theoretically an attractive therapeutic option for patients with hematological malignancies. Various laboratory studies suggested the importance of the choice of tumor antigen for successful immunotherapy. Cancer-testis antigens (CTAs) are potentially suitable molecules for tumor vaccines of hematological malignancies because of their high immunogenicity in vivo, even in cancer-bearing patients, and their relatively restricted normal tissue distribution. Tumor cell kill using a CTA-based immunotherapy will, therefore, be more specific and associated with less toxicities when compared to chemotherapy. Many CTAs have been identified in various hematologic malignancies. In this review, we will take the readers through the journey of hopes and the disappointments arisen from the discovery of CTAs. We will describe the features of CTAs and their expression in hematologic malignancies. We will also discuss the mechanisms regulating the expression of these CTAs, from a primary regulatory mechanism involving DNA methylation to secondary controls by cytokines. Finally, we will address the potential obstacles that will prevent the successful use of CTAs as targets for tumor immunotherapy.


Cancer-testis antigens; DNA methylation; hematological malignancies; heterogeneity of antigen expression


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