SSX Cancer Testis Antigens are Expressed in Most Multiple Myeloma Patients: Co-Expression of SSX1, 2, 4, and 5 Correlates With Adverse Prognosis and High Frequencies of SSX-Positive PCs

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Summary:Cancer testis antigens (CTAs) are tumor-specific antigens that may be useful targets for cancer vaccines. Here, CTA expression was examined in multiple myeloma (MM), a B-cell cancer characterized by malignant plasma cells (PCs) in the bone marrow (BM), and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a condition that can progress to MM. We screened a panel of patient BMs at different stages of malignancy for CTA expression by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction RT-PCR. Here, SSX (synovial sarcoma, X chromosome) emerged as a promising candidate for an MM vaccine, having a profile similar to currently studied CTA, NY-ESO-1, and MAGE. SSX1, 2, 4, and 5 expression was studied further in 114 MM (total SSX, 61% of patients; SSX1, 42%; SSX2, 23%; SSX4, 38%; SSX5, 35%), 45 MGUS (total SSX, 24% of patients; SSX1, 9%; SSX4, 20%), and 12 control (0/12, 0%) subjects. Several expression patterns were observed, the most predominant being co-expression of SSX1, 2, 4, and 5 (called group A expression, in 20% of MM), which correlated with reduced survival (P = 0.0006). Of the four genes, SSX2 had the strongest association with reduced survival (P = 0.0001). SSX protein expression ranged from 13.5% of PCs in an SSX1/SSX4 co-expressor to as high as 88% of PCs in group A expressor, exceeding reported frequencies of NY-ESO-1 and MAGE in MM. In single PCs from group A patients, we detected variable degrees of SSX co-expression, emphasizing the heterogeneity of CTA expression within tumor cell populations. These results demonstrate that SSX is a frequently expressed CTA in MM and highlight its potential as an MM vaccine candidate.

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