Cancer/testis antigens: “smart” biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis of prostate and other cancers

Prakash Kulkarni, Vladimir N. Uversky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


A clinical dilemma in the management of prostate cancer (PCa) is to distinguish men with aggressive disease who need definitive treatment from men who may not require immediate intervention. Accurate prediction of disease behavior is critical because radical treatment is associated with high morbidity. Here, we highlight the cancer/testis antigens (CTAs) as potential PCa biomarkers. The CTAs are a group of proteins that are typically restricted to the testis in the normal adult but are aberrantly expressed in several types of cancers. Interestingly, >90% of CTAs are predicted to belong to the realm of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs), which do not have unique structures and exist as highly dynamic conformational ensembles, but are known to play important roles in several biological processes. Using prostate-associated gene 4 (PAGE4) as an example of a disordered CTA, we highlight how IDP conformational dynamics may regulate phenotypic heterogeneity in PCa cells, and how it may be exploited both as a potential biomarker as well as a promising therapeutic target in PCa. We also discuss how in addition to intrinsic disorder and post-translational modifications, structural and functional variability induced in the CTAs by alternate splicing represents an important feature that might have different roles in different cancers. Although it is clear that significant additional work needs to be done in the outlined direction, this novel concept emphasizing (multi)functionality as an important trait in selecting a biomarker underscoring the theranostic potential of CTAs that is latent in their structure (or, more appropriately, the lack thereof), and casts them as next generation or “smart” biomarker candidates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number740
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017


  • Biomarkers
  • Cancer/testis antigens
  • Centrosomal protein of 55 kDa (CEP55)
  • Intrinsically disordered protein
  • Nucleolar protein 4 (NOL4)
  • Prostate cancer
  • Prostate-associated gene 4 (PAGE4)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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