Survival in early breast cancer patients is favorably influenced by a natural humoral immune response to polymorphic epithelial mucin

Silvia von Mensdorff-Pouilly, A. A. Verstraeten, P. Kenemans, F. G M Snijdewint, A. Kok, G. J. Van Kamp, M. A. Paul, P. J. Van Diest, S. Meijer, J. Hilgers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Polymorphic epithelial mucin (PEM or MUC1) is being studied as a vaccine substrate for the immunotherapy of patients with adenocarcinoma. The present study analyzes the incidence of naturally occurring MUC1 antibodies in early breast cancer patients and relates the presence of these antibodies in pretreatment serum to outcome of disease. Materials and Methods: We measured immunoglobulin G (IgG) and immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies to MUC1 with an enzyme-linked immunoassay (PEM.CIg), which uses a MUC1 triple-tandem repeat peptide conjugated to bovine serum albumin, in pretreatment serum samples obtained from 154 breast cancer patients (52 with stage I disease and 102 with stage II) and 302 controls. The median disease- specific survival time of breast cancer patients was 74 months (range, 15 to 118 months). A positive test result was defined as MUC1 IgG or IgM antibody levels equal to or greater than the corresponding rounded-up median results obtained in the total breast cancer population. Results: A positive test result for both MUC1 IgG and IgM antibodies in pretreatment serum was associated with a significant benefit in disease-specific survival in stage I and II (P = .0116) breast cancer patients. Positive IgG and IgM MUC1 antibody levels had significant additional prognostic value to stage (P = .0437) in multivariate analysis. Disease-free survival probability did not differ significantly. However, stage II patients who tested positive for MUC1 IgG and IgM antibody and who relapsed had predominantly local recurrences or contralateral disease, as opposed to recurrences at distant sites in the patients with a negative humoral response (P = .026). Conclusion: Early breast cancer patients with a natural humoral response to MUC1 have a higher probability of freedom from distant failure and a better disease-specific survival. MUC1 antibodies may control hematogenic tumor dissemination and outgrowth by aiding the destruction of circulating or seeded MUC1-expressing tumor cells. Vaccination of breast cancer patients with MUC1-derived (glyco)peptides in an adjuvant setting may favorably influence the outcome of disease. (C) 2000 by American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)574-583
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

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