Earlier studies revealed that all adenocarcinomata of the human digestive system, arising from entodermally derived epithelium, contain identical tumor-specific antigens. Further investigations showed that similar constituents are present in embryonic and fetal gut, pancreas, and liver in the first two trimesters of gestation. These components have, thus, been named carcinoembryonic antigens (CEA) of the human digestive system. Serologic testing demonstrated that the sera of the majority of patients suffering from nonmetastatic digestive system cancer contain specific anti-CEA antibodies, which disappear from the circulation following metastatic dissemination of the tumor. These findings led to experiments, described in this report, which were designed to localize the CEA sites of the digestive system cancer cell. Immunofluorescent studies of tumor tissue sections and agglutination reactions with cultured explanted cells of digestive system cancers indicated that the CEA are associated with the tumor cell surface. This observation is discussed in the light of the significance of the human anti-CEA antibody response.

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This investigation was supported by research grants from the National Cancer Institute, Toronto, Ontario, the Cancer Research Society, Montreal, Quebec, and the Allergy Foundation of America, New York City, New York.

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