Antibodies to the neutral glycolipid asialo ganglio-N-tetraosylceramide: Association with gynecologic cancers
As part of our efforts to define subpopulations at increased risk for gynecologic malignancies, sera from 145 women were obtained prior to diagnosis and analyzed for antibody to asialo ganglio-N-tetraosylceramide. This neutral glycolipid is present on the surface of thymocytes and natural killer cells, and asialo ganglio-N-tetraosylceramide antibody has been shown in animals to block natural killer cell activity and promote tumor cell proliferation. With the use of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and with a value of 2 SD above the mean for healthy women designated as the boundary for a positive response, antibody to asialo ganglio-N-tetraosylceramide was detected in only one of 30 (3%) healthy women, none of 16 pregnant women, none of 18 women with benign masses, and two of 24 (8%) women with microbial infections. All of the above samples that contained antibodies were barely over the 2 SD limit. In marked contrast, 19 of 35 (54%) women with gynecologic malignancies had asialo ganglio-N-tetraosylceramide antibodies, with positive values ranging to greater than 10 SD above the control mean. Asialo ganglio-N-tetraosylceramide antibody was found in six of eight (75%) patients with cervical cancer, five of eight (63%) with endometrial cancer, and seven of 15 (47%) with ovarian cancer. Of the eight patients with Stage I gynecologic cancer at any site, five (62%) had asialo ganglio-N-tetraosylceramide antibodies. Four of 22 (18%) women with Hodgkin's disease also had antibodies, with values just exceeding 2 SD above control levels. The presence of these antibodies may contribute to an impaired immune surveillance system in these women and so increase their susceptibility to malignancy.