Background: Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is characterized by a low rate of metastasis, slow growth and strong stroma dependency, with significant morbidity and public health burden. Cancer-testis (CT) genes are specifically expressed in normal testis, fetal ovary and different types of cancers. Testis immune privileged status makes CT genes promising candidates as cancer markers, vaccines and immunotherapy.
Objectives: To find new CT genes as cancer markers and candidate genes for immunotherapy and to correlate pathological and clinical features with their expression in patients with BCC.
Methods: By means of digital differential display, seven testis-specific genes were selected. Their expression patterns were analysed in 78 BCC and 15 normal skin samples using semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Pathological and clinical characteristics were determined using appropriate methods.
Results: SPATA19, TEX101, ODF1, ODF2 and ODF3 were expressed in 56.6%, 38.2%, 2.6%, 17.4% and 2.6% of BCCs but not in normal skin samples. ODF4 and PASD1 were not expressed in any BCC samples. TEX101 and SPATA19 expression in high-risk BCCs was higher than in low-risk tumours (P < 0.001). SPATA19 expression was correlated with a history of cancer radiotherapy (P < 0.001). Significant associations were found between expression of TEX101 with nodular subtype, ODF2 with infiltrating subtype, and ODF1 with tumours located on the neck. Among gene expressors, 42.1% co-expressed two genes and 5.3% co-expressed three genes.
Conclusions: We report five new CT antigens, of which SPATA19 and TEX101 may be possible targets for cancer immunotherapy and novel markers for early detection of BCC.