Our purpose was to clarify whether human colorectal cancer cells are equipped to present tumour-associated-antigens to the immune system, and whether this ability correlates with lymphoid infiltration, the Dukes' stage and Jass classification. Enzymatically dissociated tumour cells from 70 different colorectal cancers were monitored by multiparameter flow cytometry. Gating on EP4+ cells, the expression of the surface molecules HLA class I, HLA class II, CD80 (B7-1), CD54 (ICAM-I) and CD58 (LFA-3) was evaluated. In 60 of 70 tumours, all tumour cells expressed HLA class I, in 10 tumours 15-96% of the tumour cells expressed HLA class I. In 1 tumour, all tumour cells expressed HLA class II, in 67 tumours some expressed HLA class II, in 2 tumours none expressed HLA class II. Expression of CD58 was heterogeneous, and there was no or only sparse expression of CD80 and CD54. Expression of the HLA class I molecules, but not the class II, was correlated with lymphoid infiltration and the Jass classification. Expression of these surface molecules was not correlated with the Dukes' stage. The tumour cells were generally equipped to present antigens to the effector arm of the immune system since HLA class I is expressed, but the tumour cells were not optimal in stimulating an immune response, since HLA class II and CD58 were only marginally expressed and CD80 and CD54 were absent.
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