Cancer-testis antigens in haematological malignancies

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Immunotherapy is an attractive therapeutic option for patients with haematological malignancies. Until recently, the progress in the development of tumour vaccines for haematological malignancies had been slow due to the lack of suitable targets. Cancer-testis (CT) antigens are potentially suitable molecules for tumour vaccines of haematological malignancies because of their high immunogenicity in vivo and their relatively restricted normal tissue distribution. This review evaluates the properties and potential functions of CT antigens. We discuss the expression of CT antigens in patient with haematological malignancies and provide evidence in support of their immunogenicity in vivo in these patients. We also address the role of ‘epigenetic’ regulation of CT antigens in haematological malignancies and how hypomethylating agents could induce the expression of some of these antigens in tumour cells to overcome the problem of heterogeneity of expression of the antigen within individual tumour specimens. Data implicating the interaction of the promoter genes of some of these CT antigens with the MeCP2 protein also suggest the potential role of the histone deacetylase inhibitors in inducing antigen expression in tumour cells. Finally, we discuss the direction of future research in advancing the development of tumour vaccines for haematological malignancies.

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