John C. Herr, PhD
Proteins involved in spermiogenesis, oogenesis and fertilization; testis and ovary genes that dysregulate in human tumors
Cancer-Testis Antigens, The focus of the Herr laboratory is the identification, cloning and characterization of human testis genes and their encoded proteins and an examination of their patterns of expression in various human tumor types. This arena of cancer research is referred to as the field of "cancer-testis antigens." This field is founded upon the observation that dysregulation of several tumor types results in expression of genes which are normally expressed only during spermatogenesis. Because these genes are expressed only in the testis in the healthy individual, cancer testis antigens afford diagnostic targets for early detection and monitoring of cancer progression and may also serve as targets for Therapeutics, including tumor vaccines and the development of antagonists.
Seven new cancer testis antigens have been identified by the lab, cloned, expressed as recombinant proteins, antibodies to recombinant proteins manufactured, and evidence has been gained by northern blot, dot blot, RT-PCR or virtual northern, that human tumors express these proteins. The new proteins are: A-Kinase anchoring protein-3 [AKAP3], calcium binding tyrosine phosphorylation regulated protein [CABYR], equatorial segment proteins [ESP], sperm acrosomal memebrane protein 32 [SAMP32], sperm acrosomal membrane protein 14 [SAMP14] , sperm specific lysozyme like proteins [SLLPs], and sperm protein associated with the nucleus encoded by X chromosome [SPAN-X].
Knowledge about the incidences of expression of these genes in various tumor types is currently in its infancy. The laboratory is actively studying the expression patterns in a variety of tumors by PCR and by immunocytochemictry. Further, because these genes have been discovered in the human genome through a proteome approach only recently, very little information as to their normal function is presently available. The group is actively studying their normal biology. The group has filed patent applications on these new cancer-testis antigens and has begun publishing some of the findings.