Many tumor cells produce antigens, which may be released in the bloodstream or remain on the cell surface. Antigens have been identified in most of the human cancers, including Burkitt lymphoma, neuroblastoma, malignant melanoma, osteosarcoma, renal cell carcinoma, breast carcinoma, prostate cancer, lung carcinomas, and colon cancer. A key role of the immune system is detection of these antigens to permit subsequent targeting for eradication. However, despite their foreign structure, the immune response to tumor antigens varies and is often insufficient to prevent tumor growth.
Tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) are relatively restricted to tumor cells, whereas tumor-specific antigens (TSAs) are unique to tumor cells. TSAs and TAAs typically are portions of intracellular molecules expressed on the cell surface as part of the major histocompatibility complex.
Suggested mechanisms of origin for tumor antigens include
Last full review/revision March 2013 by Dmitry Gabrilovich, MD, PhD