Cancer Patients' Immune System Targets Receptor

Strong T cell and antibody response to the folate receptor in breast and ovarian cancer

TUESDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Breast and ovarian cancer patients have a strong T cell and antibody response against the folate receptor, which is often overexpressed in such cancers, according to a study in the Sept. 10 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D., from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues used an algorithm to predict the epitopes of the folate receptor alpha that might trigger an immune reaction. They then tested for immunity to these epitopes by enzyme-linked immunospot analysis in 17 breast cancer patients, 13 ovarian cancer patients, and 18 healthy donors.

The program predicted 14 peptides, the researchers found. More than 70 percent of cancer patients showed immunity to at least one epitope, with significantly more immunity to the amino-terminal half of the protein. Cancer patients had an immune response to an average of 3 peptides compared with an average of only 1 peptide for healthy donors. There were also high levels of antibodies against the folate receptor in cancer patients, according to the study.

"These findings demonstrate that the [folate receptor alpha] is a target of the immune system in breast and ovarian cancer patients," Knutson and colleagues concluded.

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