In vitro characterisation of a monovalent and bivalent form of a fully human anti Ep-CAM phage antibody

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2001 Mar;50(1):51-9. doi: 10.1007/s002620000160.


Antibodies to tumour-associated antigens are increasingly being used as targeting vehicles for the visualisation and for therapy of human solid tumours. The epithelial cell adhesion molecule (Ep-CAM) is an antigen that is overexpressed on a variety of human solid tumours and constitutes an attractive target for immunotargeting. We set out to obtain fully human antibodies to this antigen by selecting from a large antibody repertoire displayed on bacteriophages. Two single-chain variable antibody fragments (scFv) were identified that specifically bound recombinant antigen in vitro. One of the selected antibodies (VEL-1) cross-reacted with extracellular matrix components in immunohistochemistry of colon carcinoma, whereas the other scFv (VEL-2) specifically recognised colon cancer cells. The latter antibody was further characterised with respect to epitope specificity and kinetics of antigen-binding. It showed no competition with the well-characterised anti Ep-CAM MOC-31 monoclonal antibody and had an off-rate of 5 x 10(-2) s-1. To obtain an antibody format more suitable for in vivo tumour targeting and to increase the apparent affinity through avidity, the genes of scFv VEL-2 were re-formatted by fusion to a human (gamma 1) hinge region and CH3 domain. This "minibody" was expressed in Escherichia coli, specifically bound the Ep-CAM antigen and showed a 20-fold reduced off-rate in surface plasmon resonance analysis. These results show that phage antibody selection, combined with antibody engineering, may result in fully human antibody molecules with promising characteristics for in vivo use in tumour targeting.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / chemistry
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / analysis
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / chemistry
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / immunology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Cross Reactions
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / immunology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptide Library*


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Antibodies, Neoplasm
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments
  • Peptide Library
  • immunoglobulin Fv