BACKGROUND: A murine monoclonal antibody against the 17-1A epithelial antigen has been shown to be a useful adjuvant therapy in colorectal cancer. Its clinical use could be extended to patients with upper gastrointestinal adenocarcinoma. AIM: To determine the distribution of the antigen in gastric and oesophageal adenocarcinoma. METHODS: The activity of two monoclonal antibodies active against 17-1A epithelial antigen was studied in gastric and gastro-oesophageal junction adenocarcinomas: fresh frozen tissue from both the carcinoma and adjacent mucosa was stained using immunocytochemistry with a murine monoclonal antibody (17-1A edrecolomab, Glaxo Wellcome); paraffin embedded tissue was stained using the humanised monoclonal antibody 3622W94 (Glaxo Wellcome). RESULTS: 29 of 33 cancers (88%) stained with the murine antibody and 39 of 40 (98%) with the humanised antibody. The degree of staining was greater in well differentiated and moderately differentiated tumours. There was no staining of the normal background gastric or oesophageal mucosa, but areas of intestinal metaplasia stained intensely. The humanised monoclonal 3622W94 antibody produced more intense staining than the murine antibody. CONCLUSIONS: The high incidence of expression of the 17-1A antigen in patients with gastric and gastro-oesophageal junction adenocarcinomas suggests a potential role for these antibodies as an adjuvant treatment for these common cancers.
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