Background: The MAGE and BAGE genes code for distinct antigens, which are recognized oil melanoma cells as well as on other various tumor cells by autologous cytolytic T lymphocytes. These antigens may thus constitute useful targets for specific immunotherapy, since no expression of MAGE or BAGE genes has been recognized in normal tissue except for the testis. Patients and Methods: We studied the MAGE-I, MAGE-3, and BAGE gene expression observed in 49 Japanese breast cancers. Gene expression was evaluated by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Results: Out of 49 tumor tissue specimens of primary breast cancers, the expression of MAGE-1, -3 and BAGE was recognized in 15 (31%), 12 (24%), and 4 (8%) tumors, respectively. The expression of MAGE and BAGE genes is not recognized in normal breast tissue. The expression of the MAGE-3 gene was frequently recognized in tumors with lymphatic and/or vascular vessel permeations. Either MAGE-1 or -3 gene expressions were induced in 1 of 3 MAGE-1 negative breast cell lines or 1 of 3 MAGE-3 negative breast cell lines by the treatment with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. Conclusions: These findings suggest that: 1) the identification of such antigens coded by IMAGE or BAGE genes may thus offer the possibility of using specific immunotherapy, and 2) the use of a demethylating agent may increase the number of patients who might be candidates for MAGE specific immunotherapy.
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