Challenges in Antibody Development against Tn and Sialyl-Tn Antigens

The carbohydrate antigens Tn and sialyl-Tn (STn) are expressed in most carcinomas and usually absent in healthy tissues. These antigens have been correlated with cancer progression and poor prognosis, and associated with immunosuppressive microenvironment. Presently they are used in clinical trials as therapeutic vaccination, but with limited success due to their low immunogenicity. Alternatively, anti-Tn and/or STn antibodies may be used to harness the immune system against tumor cells. Whilst the development of antibodies against these antigens had a boost two decades ago for diagnostic use, so far no such antibody entered into clinical trials. The article provides an insight review into the use of modern technologies and engineering techniques that could result in innovative therapeutic antibodies for cancer treatment.

Possible limitations are the low specificity and efficiency of existing antibodies and that novel antibodies are still necessary. The vast array of methodologies available today will allow rapid antibody development and novel formats. Following the advent of hybridoma technology, the immortalization of human B cells became a methodology to obtain human monoclonal antibodies with better specificity. Advances in molecular biology including phage display technology for high throughput screening, transgenic mice and more recently molecularly engineered antibodies enhanced the field of antibody production. The development of novel antibodies against Tn and STn taking advantage of innovative technologies and engineering techniques may result in innovative therapeutic antibodies for cancer treatment.