Alteration of the p53 gene is the most frequent genetic feature of human cancer and leads to overexpression of the altered protein in the tumor cell nucleus. Two diagnostic procedures are currently available to assess p53 mutations: (a) molecular analysis of the gene sequence; and (b) immunohistochemical analysis of p53 protein accumulation. We now report a third approach, serological analysis. Fifteen % of primary breast cancer patients were found to have circulating antibodies to p53 protein by immunoprecipitation or immunoblotting. We have found a close correlation between the presence of such antibodies and bad prognosis such as high histological grade and the absence of hormone receptors. Furthermore, we found that the B-cell response to p53 protein is induced by two immunodominant regions located at the carboxy and amino termini of the protein, outside the central mutational hot spot region. These findings suggest that serological analysis, combined with molecular and histochemical methods, may be suitable for assessing the state of the p53 gene in cancer patients.
This work was supported by grants from the Association de Recherche sur le Cancer, Ligue Nationale contre le Cancer, Fédération Nationale des Groupements des Entreprises Française dans la Lutte contre le Cancer, and Fondation de France.