Heterogeneity of antigen expression in advanced epithelial ovarian cancer

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      Immunohistochemical techniques were used to evaluate the expression of six antigens (CA 125, TAG 72, CA 19-9, 0VTL3, DF3, and transferrin receptor) in frozen sections from the primary tumor and metastases of 20 patients with epithelial ovarian cancer. Heterogeneous expression of most antigens was observed within a given tumor nodule, but in each patient the proportion of cells expressing an antigen was similar in the primary tumor and metastases. To explore the stability of the antigenic phenotype of individual cells, we studied CA 125 expression in an ovarian cancer cell line. Cells were separated into CA 125-positive and -negative groups using fluorescence-activated cell sorting. After the two groups of cells were recultured separately, only 38% of cells originally sorted as CA 125 positive still expressed CA 125, whereas 27% of cells sorted as CA 125 negative expressed CA 125. That cells may gain or lose CA 125 expression in culture suggests that expression of CA 125 by ovarian cancer cells is not a stable trait. (Am J Obstet Gynecol 1990;162:883-8.)


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