Characterization of several high-affinity murine monoclonal anticarcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) antibodies suggested good specificity except for cross-reactivity with an antigen on granulocytes and erythrocytes which was different from the previously described normal cross-reacting antigen of granulocytes. In vivo studies in athymic mice using an indium conjugate of an anti-CEA monoclonal antibody (MoAb) revealed excellent specific uptake in colorectal carcinoma xenografts. Studies were conducted in humans to determine the limitations produced by the cross-reactivity with granulocytes and erythrocytes. Patients with metastatic colorectal cancer received 3 to 6 mg of anti-CEA MoAb over 10 min or 2 hr. In five of six trials, the MoAb infusion was associated with a 40 to 90% decrease in circulating granulocytes and systemic toxicity including fever, rigors, and emesis. One patient had no change in cell count and had no toxicity. Radionuclide scans with 111In-anti-CEA MoAb showed marked uptake in the spleen when cells were eliminated, and in the liver, especially when pretreatment CEA levels were high. Metastatic tumor sites failed to concentrate the isotope. This study emphasizes the potential limitations for radioimmunodetection and/or radioimmunotherapy imposed by reactivity with circulating cells, and suggests that certain toxic reactions associated with MoAb infusions are related to destruction of circulating cells rather than allergic reactions to mouse protein. It also emphasizes how variables such as dose and binding affinity of antibody, radioisotope used, and assessment at different observation points can obscure lack of antibody specificity.


This work was funded by Hybritech, Inc., La Jolla, CA, as well as by the Veterans Administration, American Cancer Society, No. 602 JFCF.

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