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Influenza virus infection elicits protective antibodies and T cells specific for host cell antigens also expressed as tumor-associated antigens: a new view of cancer immunosurveillance.
Most tumor-associated antigens (TAA) are self-molecules that are abnormally expressed in cancer cells and become targets of antitumor immune responses. Antibodies and T cells specific for some TAAs have been found in healthy individuals and are associated with lowered lifetime risk for developing cancer. Lower risk for cancer has also been associated with a history of febrile viral diseases. We hypothesized that virus infections could lead to transient expression of abnormal forms of self-molecules, some of which are TAAs; facilitated by the adjuvant effects of infection and inflammation, these molecules could elicit specific antibodies, T cells, and lasting immune memory simultaneously with immunity against viral antigens. Such infection-induced immune memory for TAA would be expected to provide life-long immune surveillance of cancer. Using influenza virus infection in mice as a model system, we tested this hypothesis and demonstrated that influenza-experienced mice control 3LL mouse lung tumor challenge better than infection-naive control mice. Using 2D-difference gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry, we identified numerous molecules, some of which are known TAAs, on the 3LL tumor cells recognized by antibodies elicited by two successive influenza infections. We studied in detail immune responses against glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), histone H4, HSP90, malate dehydrogenase 2, and annexin A2, all of which were overexpressed in influenza-infected lungs and in tumor cells. Finally, we show that immune responses generated through vaccination against peptides derived from these antigens correlated with improved tumor control.