Cancer Is Associated with the Emergence of Placenta-Reactive Autoantibodies

Sara Khorami Sarvestani, Sorour Shojaeian, Ramin Sarrami-Forooshani, Mir Saeed Yekaninejad, Kambiz Gilany, Abbas Ghaderi, Maryam Hashemnejad, Asiie Olfatbakhsh, Farzane Notash Haghighat, Samaneh Montazeri, Allan Stensballe, Mahmood Jeddi-Tehrani, Amir-Hassan Zarnani

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Placenta-specific antigens are minimally expressed or unexpressed in normal adult tissues, while they are widely expressed in cancer. In the course of carcinogenesis, a vast array of autoantibodies (AAbs) is produced. Here, we used a quantitative approach to determine the reactivity of AAbs in the sera of patients with breast (BrC: N = 100, 100% female, median age: 51 years), gastric (GC: N = 30, 46.6% female, median age: 57 years), bladder (BC: N = 29, 34.4% female, median age: 57 years), and colorectal (CRC: N = 34, 41.1% female, median age: 51 years) cancers against first-trimester (FTP) and full-term placental proteome (TP) in comparison with age- and sex-matched non-cancer individuals. Human-on-human immunohistochemistry was used to determine reactive target cells in FTP. The effect of pregnancy on the emergence of placenta-reactive autoantibodies was tested using sera from pregnant women at different trimesters of pregnancy. Except for BC, patients with BrC (p < 0.0284), GC (p < 0.0002), and CRC (p < 0.0007) had significantly higher levels of placenta-reactive AAbs. BrC (p < 0.0001) and BC (p < 0.0409) in the early stages triggered higher autoantibody reactivity against FTP. The reactivities of BrC sera with FTP did not show an association with ER, PR, or HER2 expression. Pregnancy in the third trimester was associated with the induction of TP- and not FTP-reactive autoantibodies (=0.018). The reactivity of BrC sera with placental proteins was found to be independent of gravidity or abortion. BrC sera showed a very strong and specific pattern of reactivity with scattered cells beneath the syncytiotrophoblast layer. Our results reinforce the concept of the coevolution of placentation and cancer and shed light on the future clinical application of the placental proteome for the non-invasive early detection and treatment of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number316
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2023


  • autoantibody
  • antigen
  • cancer
  • placental proteins
  • pregnancy


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