Cancer/testis (CT) antigens: potential targets for immunotherapy

Cancer Sci. 2009 Nov;100(11):2014-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1349-7006.2009.01303.x. Epub 2009 Aug 1.


Cancer/testis (CT) antigens are protein antigens with normal expression restricted to adult testicular germ cells, and yet are aberrantly activated and expressed in a proportion of various types of human cancer. At least a subset of this group of antigens has been found to elicit spontaneous humoral and cell-mediated immune responses in cancer patients, raising the possibility that these antigens could be cancer vaccine targets. More than 100 CT antigen genes have been reported in the literature, with approximately 30 being members of multigene families on the X chromosome, so-called CT-X genes. Most CT-X genes are expressed at the spermatogonia stage of spermatogenesis, and their functions are mostly unknown. In cancer, the frequency of CT antigen expression is highly variable among different tumor types, but is more often expressed in high-grade late-stage cases in general. Cancer vaccine trials based on CT antigens MAGE-A3 and NY-ESO-1 are currently ongoing, and these antigens may also play a role in antigen-specific adoptive T-cell transfer and in the immunomodulation approach of cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / physiology
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Male
  • Melanoma-Specific Antigens
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Testis / immunology*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Melanoma-Specific Antigens
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger