The identification of novel tumor-associated antigens is critical for the development of immunotherapeutic strategies. Cancer-testis (CT) antigens represent attractive targets due to their restricted pattern of expression. More than 90 CT genes have been previously classified into four categories according to their expression profiles:

  • testis-restricted (expression in testis and tumor samples only),

  • “tissue restricted” (mRNA detected in 2 or fewer non-gametogenic tissues),

  • “differentially expressed” (mRNA detected in three to six non-gametogenic tissues), and

  • “ubiquitously expressed”.

Among those, we previously reported that 18 CT genes were expressed by primary myeloma cells (MMC) of more than 10% of patients with multiple myeloma (MM). This study aimed at finding novel putative CT genes expressed in MM using cDNA microarray analysis and real-time RT-PCR validation. Gene expression profiles of 5 testis samples, 64 MMC, 7 normal memory B cell (MB), 7 normal bone marrow plasma cell samples and 23 normal tissue samples available on a public database were obtained using Affymetrix U133AB microarrays. Out of 45000 probe sets of Affymetrix U133 AB chips, we selected 16982 probe sets which had a “Present” Affymetrix Call in MMC of at least 6/64 patients and in 3/5 testis samples. In order to select genes with a similar pattern of expression than the known CT genes, we developed 4 independent filters making it possible to keep a high number of known CT genes while decreasing the total number of probe sets. Firstly, 2514 of 16982 probe sets had a ratio of the mean signal in MMC with a Present call / mean signal in MB > 2.5. Secondly, 541 of these 2514 probe sets had a Present call in less than 7 of the 23 normal tissues. Thirdly, 333 of these 541 probe sets had a ratio of the mean signal in MMC with a Present call / mean signal in MMC with an Absent call > 2.5. Fourthly, we removed genes whose expression profiles were discordant with different probe sets or discordant with data of the literature. The final probe set list contains 88 probe sets which include 13 of 18 known CT genes reported in MM, thus resulting in a 190-fold enrichment. The expression in 13 normal tissues and in MM samples of 21 out of these 75 putative novel CT genes was investigated by real time RT-PCR. Seven genes were ubiquitously expressed or poorly expressed in MMC samples and further deleted. According to the previously defined CT gene categories, we found one novel “testis-restricted” (TEX14), 8 “tissue-restricted” and 5 “differentially expressed” CT genes. Immunogenicity of one gene product - IGSF11 - was already demonstrated in other cancers by identifying a T-cell epitope. Two genes - NLGN4X and FAM133A - are located in X chromosome and 2 genes - CTNNA2 and FAM133A - are expressed only in brain and testis. In conclusion, by analyzing gene expression patterns with Affymetrix microarrays, we found 75 novel putative CT antigen candidates expressed in MMC of 10 to 100% of patients. Real time RT-PCR validation made it possible to confirm the CT status of 14 genes out of the 21 tested. Further studies are warranted to determine their immunogenicity.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.