• colorectal cancer;
  • tumor antigen;
  • tumor immunology;
  • T cells;
  • immunotherapy


NY-CO-58/KIF2C has been identified as a tumor antigen by screening antibody responses in patients with colorectal cancer. However, expression had not consequently been examined, and nothing was known about its ability to induce spontaneous T cell responses, which have been suggested to play a role in the development of colorectal cancer. We analyzed 5 colorectal cancer cell lines, and tumor samples and adjacent healthy tissues from 176 patients with epithelial cancers for the expression of NY-CO-58/KIF2C by RT-PCR and Western Blot. T cell responses of 43 colorectal cancer patients and 35 healthy donors were evaluated by ELISpot following stimulation with 30mer peptides or full-length protein. All cell lines and tumor samples from colorectal cancer patients expressed NY-CO-58/KIF2C on the protein and RNA level, and expression levels correlated strongly with Ki-67 expression (r = 0.69; p = 0.0003). Investigating NY-CO-58/KIF2C-specific T cell responses, CD8+ T cells directed against 1 or more peptides were found in less than 10% of patients, whereas specific CD4+ T cells were detected in close to 50% of patients. These T cells were of high avidity, recognized the naturally processed antigen and secreted IFN-γ and TNF-α. Depletion of CD4+CD25+ T cells before stimulation significantly increased the intensity of the preexisting response. NY-CO-58/KIF2C is significantly overexpressed in colorectal and other epithelial cancers and expression levels correlate with the proliferative activity of the tumor. Importantly, NY-CO-58/KIF2C was able to induce spontaneous CD4+ T cell responses of the Th1-type, which were tightly controlled by peripheral T regulatory cells.