The human protein atlas blog

Profiling cancer testis antigens

Cancer Testis

Dijana Djureinovic, the first author of the study

In a recent publication in JCI Insight researchers from the Human Protein Atlas have described the expression of the currently known cancer-testis antigens (CTAs) in non-small cell lung cancer, and have added 50 new CTAs to this list.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer related death in Sweden and worldwide. Most patient present with advanced disease and have a short life expectancy despite modern therapy.

Dijana Djureinovic is a PhD student in the group of Cecilia Lindskog at Science for Life Laboratory. She started her PhD studies two years ago, but worked in the project before that, on antibody validation.

– The main focus of my research is to identify novel therapeutic targets in non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common form of lung cancer, she explains.

– One group of genes that has caught our attention is CTAs, she continues. CTAs are expressed in cancer cells but in normal tissues their expression is restricted to germ cells. This unique expression pattern renders CTAs clinically relevant, not only as biomarkers for early cancer detection but they can potentially also be used as therapeutical targets.

In the present study the researchers performed an extensive analysis of CTAs in non-small cell lung cancer by comparing the mRNA expression (RNAseq) of all putative protein coding genes in 32 normal tissues and 199 non-small cell lung cancer tissues.

– We have described the expression of the currently known CTAs in non-small cell lung cancer but we could also identify 50 new CTAs, Dijana Djureinovic says.

The majority of the analyzed lung cancer cases express at least one CTA (91% of patients).

– For some of these new CTAs we also show protein localization in non-small cell lung cancer tissue by using immunohistochemistry. The newly identified CTAs harbours features that are typical for CTAs; they are often co-expressed and expressed in a histology dependent manner.

In the next phase the research group is analyzing CTAs in plasma from non-small cell lung cancer tissue patients together with the group of Jochen Schwenk at the Science for Life Laboratory in Stockholm. The detection of CTAs in plasma could serve as an early indicator for lung cancer thus would facilitate screening of high-risk patient groups or could help to monitor patients for therapy response.

– For me this study is an optimal link between basic tumor biology and clinical application, and I strongly believe that our results will have an impact on patient treatment in a longer perspective, Dijana Djureinovic concludes.

Read the whole article in JCI Insights.

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Frida Henningson Johnson

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