The effect of radioimmunotherapy (RIT) on target antigen expression was studied in breast carcinomas transplanted in immunodeficient mice. In nine separate experiments, a single dose of 1500 µCi of 131I-labeled monoclonal antibody (MAb) Mc5 was given to groups of mice carrying well-established, vascularized, transplantable breast tumors (MX-1). Mc5 recognizes an epitope on the tandem repeat of the breast epithelial MUC-1 mucin. This dose suppressed tumor growth for at least 20 days, after which the tumors began to regrow. At various times thereafter, tumors were removed and analyzed for target antigen expression by flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. In no case was there any significant decrease in antigen content/cell in the tumors of treated mice compared to tumors in control untreated mice. Similar results were obtained with four other breast carcinomas (MCF-7, MDA-MB-331, MDA-MB-435, and MX-2A). To assess the effect of repeated RIT doses on target antigen expression, groups of mice with MX-1 tumors were given 2, 3, and 4 consecutive doses of 1200 µCi of 131I-labeled Mc5. One mouse each at 2, 3, and 4 doses (3 of 18) was cured of its tumor. Control mice were sacrificed after 50 days due to the excessive size of their tumors. Tumors from four mice from each group (2, 3, and 4 doses), after they began to regrow, were excised and analyzed for mucin content and compared to tumors from untreated mice with similar-size tumors transplanted at later dates. In none of the treated groups was there any decrease in mucin content. These results demonstrate that RIT with an anti-breast mucin MAb does not result in the appearance of antigen-negative tumor cells, thus indicating that repeated fractionated doses, which will most likely be necessary for an eventual cure of breast cancer with MAb therapy, are possible.


Supported in part by NIH Grants CA62352, CA61258, CA39936, and CA39932.

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