Primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) is a large B-cell neoplasm with an unfavorable prognosis and limited therapeutic options. In this study, cancer testis antigens (CTA) were investigated as potential immunotherapeutic targets in patients with PEL. Baseline expression of a panel of 11 CTA was highly heterogeneous among five PEL cell lines. In particular, the investigated CTA were not expressed in BC-2 and BC-3 cells, while BC-1, HBL-6, and BCBL-1 cells tested positive for 6, 8, and 9 CTA, respectively. The DNA hypomethylating agent 5-aza-2′-deoxycytdine (5-AZA-CdR) invariably induced or up-regulated the expression of all investigated CTA in all cell lines analyzed. The de novo expression of CTA was still detectable at mRNA and protein level at least 2 months after the end of 5-AZA-CdR treatment. These findings, and the concomitant up-regulation of HLA-class I antigens and ICAM-1 by 5-AZA-CdR, support its clinical use to set-up innovative chemo-immunotherapeutic approaches in PEL. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.