In vitro quantification of the cytotoxic T lymphocyte response against human telomerase reverse transcriptase in breast cancer

Int J Oncol. 2004 Jul;25(1):211-7.


Telomerase is expressed in approximately 90% of breast cancers but not in normal somatic cells. The catalytic subunit of telomerase, human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), is a widely expressed tumour-associated antigen against which specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses have been identified. Human CD8+ CTL have been shown to recognise hTERT synthetic peptides in an HLA-restricted manner and to lyse hTERT+ tumour cells. This study has investigated the specific CD8+ CTL response in a defined cohort of primary breast cancer patients against 3 hTERT peptides using an IFNgamma ELISpot assay. A specific CD8+ CTL response against at least one of the hTERT peptides was observed in 75% of cancer patients, with 8/17 patients responding to both HLA-A2 restricted peptides. In contrast, 38% of normal healthy female controls responded against a single peptide only. This suggests that a specific immune response exists against hTERT in breast cancer patients and that hTERT is a suitable target for tumour-based immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Breast / immunology
  • Breast / physiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Testing
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Peptide Fragments / immunology*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Receptors, Progesterone / analysis
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Telomerase / immunology*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Telomerase