Expression of MAGE tumour-associated antigens is inversely correlated with tumour differentiation in invasive ductal breast cancers: an immunohistochemical study

Virchows Arch. 2001 Aug;439(2):127-31. doi: 10.1007/s004280100421.


MAGE (Melanoma antigen E) family gene products encompass tumour-associated antigens (TAAs) recognised by human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-restricted specific T-cells. Agents inducing DNA demethylation, an event typically detectable in cellular de-differentiation processes, were shown to induce the expression of MAGE genes. By using a monoclonal antibody specific for MAGE family gene products, we have studied the expression of these TAAs in a group of 144 patients with invasive ductal breast cancers. Immunohistochemical data were correlated with tumour differentiation, lymphatic vessel invasion, oestrogen receptor expression, intratumoural necrosis, lymphocytic infiltration, perineural invasion, tumour microcalcifications and axillary lymph node metastases. MAGE immunoreactivity was undetectable in non-neoplastic cells. In poorly differentiated cancers positive staining was observed in 30/63 cases (47.6%) as compared with 13/51 (25.4%) and 5/30 (16.6%) in moderately and well-differentiated tumours, respectively (P<0.05). In addition, MAGE immunoreactivity was significantly correlated with lymphatic vessel invasion and intratumoural necrosis. Moreover, a significant inverse relationship with oestrogen receptor expression was also observed. However, no significant correlation could be established between MAGE immunoreactivity and defined phenotypic characteristics of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes, including expression of CD3, CD4, CD8, CD20 or granzyme B. Thus, expression of MAGE family gene products in invasive ductal breast cancers appears to be associated with poorly differentiated histological phenotypes. These data support the concept of specific immunotherapy in highly aggressive forms of breast neoplasms. Furthermore, they suggest that MAGE immunoreactivity could represent a tumour marker of potential prognostic relevance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / classification
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / secondary
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Melanoma-Specific Antigens
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Neoplasm Proteins / immunology
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Melanoma-Specific Antigens
  • Neoplasm Proteins