WT1 (Wilms' tumor gene 1): biology and cancer immunotherapy

Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2010 May;40(5):377-87. doi: 10.1093/jjco/hyp194. Epub 2010 Apr 15.


Wilms' tumor gene WT1 encodes a transcription factor and plays an important role in cell growth and differentiation. The WT1 gene is highly expressed in leukemia and various types of solid tumors, whereas WT1 is a tumor marker convenient for the detection of minimal residual disease of leukemia. The WT1 gene was originally defined as a tumor suppressor gene, but we proposed that it was, on the contrary, an oncogene. Furthermore, the WT1 protein has proven to be a promising tumor-associated antigen, in which many human leukocyte antigen class I- or II-restricted WT1 epitopes have been identified. Clinical trials of WT1-targeted immunotherapy have confirmed its safety and clinical efficacy. WT1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes and WT1 antibodies are spontaneously induced in tumor-bearing patients, probably because of high immunogenicity of the WT1 protein. WT1-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes make a major contribution to the graft-versus-leukemia effect after allogenic stem cell transplantation. When 75 cancer antigens including WT1 were prioritized according to several criteria such as therapeutic function and immunogenicity, WT1 was ranked as the top antigen. These findings suggest that a new era of WT1 immunotherapy is imminent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Cancer Vaccines*
  • Genes, Wilms Tumor*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / genetics
  • Leukemia / therapy
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • WT1 Proteins / immunology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • WT1 Proteins