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Keywords:

  • antigen-presenting;
  • cancer;
  • human;
  • pancreatic

Summary

Tumours evade immune recognition and destruction through loss or down-regulation of expression of antigen processing and antigen-presenting molecules such as the human leucocyte antigen (HLA class I) and transporter for antigen presentation (TAP). This study examined the expression of HLA class I, class II and TAP in human pancreatic carcinoma tissue and 19 immortalized pancreatic cancer lines using a panel of antibodies directed against allele-specific as well as monomorphic determinants of these molecules. In tissue samples, reduction or loss of HLA class I and TAP was observed in 76% of cases, loss or down-regulation of TAP expression in 53%. In pancreatic cell lines down-regulation or loss of class I and TAP expression was also observed frequently. However, reductions in class I and TAP expression were reversible upon exposure to interferon-γin vitro, suggesting a regulatory rather than structural defect in these genes. De novo class II expression was observed in 26% of tumours and 42% of cell lines and may reflect the differentiation status of the cells. The high rate of class I and TAP loss has implications for immunotherapy strategies for pancreatic cancer, as such changes could facilitate a selective growth advantage for malignant cells. However, the reinduction of expression of these molecules with cytokines such as interferon-γ may ultimately allow their cytotoxic T cell-mediated destruction.