Alteration of the p53 gene is the most frequent genetic alteration in human cancer and leads to the accumulation of mutant p53 in the nucleus of tumor cells. In addition, it has been shown that patients with various types of neoplasia have p53 antibodies in their sera which could be used as an indirect diagnostic procedure for p53 alteration. Using a new ELISA, we have analyzed the sera from more than 1000 patients with various types of cancer and from healthy blood donors. We demonstrate that p53 antibodies are detected mainly in cancer patients and are strictly proportional to the occurrence of p53 mutations. Using various immunological approaches, these antibodies were unambiguously demonstrated to be directed toward the human p53 protein. Isotyping analysis of these antibodies strongly suggested that they correspond to a humoral response to the p53 protein which accumulates in the tumor cell. This finding suggests that serological analysis, combined with histochemistry, is suitable for assessing the integrity of the p53 gene in cancer patients.

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