Cancer-embryo antigens or developmentally restricted differentiation antigens (DRDAGs), such as PLAC1 (CT92) and developmental pluripotency associated-2 (DPPA2/CT100), are expressed in pluripotent embryonic cells. They are also recognized as cancer-testis antigens (CT) which are proteins normally expressed only in the human germ line but that are also present in a significant subset of malignant tumors. These antigens may prove to be markers of 'repopulating' cells with stem cell-like characteristics and could be critical targets for immunotherapy in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Our objective was to define the frequency of expression and immunogenicity of PLAC1 and DPPA2 in EOC and correlate expression with clinical outcome. One-step reverse transcriptase PCR was performed on 101 EOC samples and a panel of normal tissues. Expression of PLAC1 and DPPA2 in the EOC specimens was 21/101 (21%) and 31/101 (31%) respectively. In normal tissues, PLAC1 expression was restricted to the placenta while DPPA2 expression was restricted to the placenta and testis. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) were also performed on a subset of specimens. Humoral immunity was demonstrable in 2/12 serum samples from patients whose tumors expressed DPPA2. There was no demonstrable antibody response to PLAC1 in patients with PLAC1 positive tumors. The presence of PLAC1 and DPPA2 did not have a statistically significant effect on recurrence-free and overall survival. The tissue-restricted expression of PLAC1 and DPPA2, their expression in a significant proportion of EOC patients, and their potential to represent markers of stem cells make DRDAGs attractive targets for antigen-specific immunotherapy in EOC.
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