Drug-induced modulation of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) expression in neoplastic cells from a patient with rectal cancer

D. Cappelletti, A. Cardillo, E. Bonanno, S. P. Prete, G. Cucchiara, M. Turriziani, J. W. Greiner, A. Cottarelli, E. Breda, A. Aquino, E. Bonmassar, L. De Vecchis

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Treatment with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) or recombinant interferon-gamma (IFN), alone or in combination, was found to increase carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) expression in several carcinoma cell lines. In this study we examined the in vitro effect of these agents on CEA expression of tumor cells, obtained from a patient operated for rectal cancer. The results showed that exposure of cancer cells to 5-FU or to IFN resulted in increased CEA levels in terms of percentage of CEA-positive cells and mean fluorescence values, as indicated by FACS analysis. However, drug combination did not induce CEA expression higher than that provided by single agents alone. Treatment with 5-FU or with IFN produced a reduction of the total number of viable cells. Moreover, Western blot analysis revealed that exposure of cancer cells to each drug was followed by a substantial increase of the total cellular CEA content. On the contrary, 5-FU in combination with IFN did not increase the expression of the antigen more than that obtained by single agents. Noteworthy, exposure of CEA-negative cells from adjacent normal rectal tissue to both agents alone or in combination, did not result in CEA induction. In conclusion, the present results suggest new approaches aimed at (a) increasing the sensitivity of diagnostic procedures based on detection of CEA-positive tumor cells; (b) facilitating the recognition of CEA-positive cancer cells by immune responses induced by anti-CEA peptide vaccines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-469
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • γ-interferon
  • 5-fluorouracil
  • CEA
  • Rectal cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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