A Survey of the Humoral Immune Response of Cancer Patients to a Panel of Human Tumor Antigens

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Evidence is growing for both humoral and cellular immune recognition of human tumor antigens. Antibodies with specificity for antigens initially recognized by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), e.g., MAGE and tyrosinase, have been detected in melanoma patient sera, and CTLs with specificity for NY-ESO-1, a cancer-testis (CT) antigen initially identified by autologous antibody, have recently been identified. To establish a screening system for the humoral response to autoimmunogenic tumor antigens, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed using recombinant NY-ESO-1, MAGE-1, MAGE-3, SSX2, Melan-A, and tyrosinase proteins. A survey of sera from 234 cancer patients showed antibodies to NY-ESO-1 in 19 patients, to MAGE-1 in 3, to MAGE-3 in 2, and to SSX2 in 1 patient. No reactivity to these antigens was found in sera from 70 normal individuals. The frequency of NY-ESO-1 antibody was 9.4% in melanoma patients and 12.5% in ovarian cancer patients. Comparison of tumor NY-ESO-1 phenotype and NY-ESO-1 antibody response in 62 stage IV melanoma patients showed that all patients with NY-ESO-1+ antibody had NY-ESO-1+ tumors, and no patients with NY-ESO-1− tumors had NY-ESO-1 antibody. As the proportion of melanomas expressing NY-ESO-1 is 20-40% and only patients with NY-ESO-1+ tumors have antibody, this would suggest that a high percentage of patients with NY-ESO-1+ tumors develop an antibody response to NY-ESO-1.

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