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Br J Cancer. 2013 May 28;108(10):2045-55. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2013.214. Epub 2013 May 7.

Autoantibodies to MUC1 glycopeptides cannot be used as a screening assay for early detection of breast, ovarian, lung or pancreatic cancer.

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Research Oncology, King's College London, Guy's Hospital, London SE1 9RT, UK.



Autoantibodies have been detected in sera before diagnosis of cancer leading to interest in their potential as screening/early detection biomarkers. As we have found autoantibodies to MUC1 glycopeptides to be elevated in early-stage breast cancer patients, in this study we analysed these autoantibodies in large population cohorts of sera taken before cancer diagnosis.


Serum samples from women who subsequently developed breast cancer, and aged-matched controls, were identified from UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) and Guernsey serum banks to formed discovery and validation sets. These were screened on a microarray platform of 60mer MUC1 glycopeptides and recombinant MUC1 containing 16 tandem repeats. Additional case-control sets comprised of women who subsequently developed ovarian, pancreatic and lung cancer were also screened on the arrays.


In the discovery (273 cases, 273 controls) and the two validation sets (UKCTOCS 426 cases, 426 controls; Guernsey 303 cases and 606 controls), no differences were found in autoantibody reactivity to MUC1 tandem repeat peptide or glycoforms between cases and controls. Furthermore, no differences were observed between ovarian, pancreatic and lung cancer cases and controls.


This robust, validated study shows autoantibodies to MUC1 peptide or glycopeptides cannot be used for breast, ovarian, lung or pancreatic cancer screening. This has significant implications for research on the use of MUC1 in cancer detection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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