MAGE, BAGE and GAGE genes encode tumor-associated antigens that are presented by HLA class I molecules and recognized by CD8(+) cytolytic T lymphocytes. These antigens are currently regarded as promising targets for active, specific tumor immunotherapy because MAGE, BAGE and GAGE genes are expressed in many human cancers of different histotype and are silent in normal tissues, with the exception of spermatogonia and placental cells. MAGE, BAGE and GAGE gene expression has been extensively studied in different tumors of adults but is largely unknown in many forms of pediatric solid cancer. Using RT-PCR, we analyzed MAGE-1, MAGE-2, MAGE-3, MAGE-4, MAGE-6, BAGE, GAGE-1,-2 or -8 and GAGE-3,-4,-5,-6 or -7b gene expression in 31 samples of pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma, the most frequent form of malignant soft tissue tumor in children. MAGE genes were expressed in a substantial proportion of patients (MAGE-1, 38%; MAGE-2, 51%; MAGE-3, 35%; MAGE-4, 22%; MAGE-6, 35%), while expression of BAGE (6%); GAGE-1, GAGE-2 and GAGE-8 (9%); and GAGE-3, GAGE-4, GAGE-5, GAGE-6 and GAGE-7B (16%) was less frequent. Overall, 58% of tumors expressed at least 1 gene, and 35% expressed 3 or more genes simultaneously. Our data suggest that a subset of rhabdomyosarcoma patients could be eligible for active, specific immunotherapy directed against MAGE, BAGE and GAGE antigens.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.