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Cancer Immunol Immunother. 1996 Feb;42(2):71-80.

The polymorphic epithelial mucin: potential as an immunogen for a cancer vaccine.

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Epithelial Cell Biology, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, UK.


The identification and cloning of several tumour antigens together with an improvement in the understanding of the mechanisms involved in antigen presentation and immune recognition has opened up the possibility of using active specific immunotherapy as a treatment for certain cancers. This review discusses the tumour-associated MUC1 gene product of the polymorphic epithelial mucin (PEM), as a potential target molecule for cancer treatment. PEM is both over-expressed and aberrantly glycosylated in many carcinomas resulting in an antigenically distinct molecule. Furthermore, immune responses specific for PEM have been detected in cancer patients. Both syngeneic and transgenic murine model systems have been developed in order to compare the efficacy and toxicity of various PEM-based immunogens in tumour rejection studies, and to further improve the understanding of antigen presentation and the mechanisms underlying tumour rejection. Such models also allow the examination of MUC1-based immunogens as a treatment for existing tumours. Clinical trials in progress using immunogens based on the MUC1 gene product are briefly discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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