Background: Human sperm protein 17 (Sp17) is a highly conserved protein that was originally isolated from a rabbit epididymal sperm membrane and testis membrane pellet. It has recently been included in the cancer/testis (CT) antigen family, and shown to be expressed in multiple myeloma and ovarian cancer. We investigated its immunolocalisation in specimens of nervous system (NS) malignancies, in order to establish its usefulness as a target for tumour-vaccine strategies.
Methods: The expression of Sp17 was assessed by means of a standardised immunohistochemical procedure [(mAb/antigen) MF1/Sp17] in formalin-fixed and paraffin embedded surgical specimens of NS malignancies, including 28 neuroectodermal primary tumours (6 astrocytomas, 16 glioblastoma multiforme, 5 oligodendrogliomas, and 1 ependymoma), 25 meningeal tumours, and five peripheral nerve sheath tumours (4 schwannomas, and 1 neurofibroma).
Results: A number of neuroectodermal (21%) and meningeal tumours (4%) were found heterogeneously immunopositive for Sp17. None of the peripheral nerve sheath tumours was immunopositive for Sp17. The expression pattern was heterogeneous in all of the positive samples, and did not correlate with the degree of malignancy.
Conclusion: The frequency of expression and non-uniform cell distribution of Sp17 suggest that it cannot be used as a unique immunotherapeutic target in NS cancer. However, our results do show the immunolocalisation of Sp17 in a proportion of NS tumour cells, but not in their non-pathological counterparts. The emerging complex function of Sp17 makes further studies necessary to clarify the link between it and immunopositive cells.