Objective: The human genes MAGE-1 and -3 encode tumor-specific peptide antigens, which are recognized by autologous cytotoxic T lymphocytes. The antigens coded by those genes may be useful for cancer immunotherapy. There is, however, little information on the expression of these genes in human colorectal carcinomas. Method: The expression of MAGE-1, -2, and -3 genes in 54 pairs of tumor and corresponding normal tissue specimens of the colorectum was determined by means of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. The induction of MAGE-1, -2, -3, and -4 gene expression in eight colorectal carcinoma cell lines also was examined by use of a demethylating agent, 5-Aza- 2'-deoxycytidine (DAC). Results: The expression of MAGE genes was not recognized in normal colorectal tissues at all. In tumor tissue specimens, the expression of MAGE-1, -2, and -3 was recognized in 16 (30%), 15 (28%), and 11 (20%) patients, respectively. The expression was seen frequently in patients with liver metastasis (p < 0.01). Although MAGE-1 or -3 genes were not induced by DAC, MAGE-2 or -4 genes were induced in three of four MAGE-2 negative cell lines or three of seven MAGE-4 negative cell lines, respectively. Conclusions: The MAGE genes were expressed exclusively in tumor tissues of one third of patients with colorectal carcinoma. The identification of such tumor rejection antigens is considered to uncover a new possibility for the specific immunotherapy of colorectal carcinoma. The demethylating agent may increase the number of patients who might be candidates for MAGE-specific immunotherapy.
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