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Scientific background

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While there has been tremendous progress in fighting cancer over the last decades millions of people still die of cancer each year worldwide.

Despite all advanced in diagnosis and therapy, the global burden of cancer has more than doubled during the past 30 years according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It is estimated that, in 2008, there were over 12 million new cases of cancer diagnosed worldwide, 7 million deaths from cancer and 25 million people alive with cancer.

In the industrialized world, the three most commonly diagnosed cancers in women are breast, colorectal, and lung cancer. Among men, these cancers are prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer. In the developing countries, the three most commonly diagnosed cancers are breast, cervix, and stomach tumors in women and lung, stomach, and liver cancers in men. In general, the three most common cancer sites are also the three leading causes of cancer-related death.

Despite tremendous advances into the molecular, genetic, and epigenetic mechanisms of cancer, treatment options are still insufficient. In particular, it is not possible yet to overcome the plentitude of evasion strategies of the tumor cells. As a result, cancer cells often escape treatment and spread and/or arise anew.

By studying the immune system's defense mechanisms in patients who have responded extraordinarily well to tumor therapy or have shown spontaneous remissions, CT Atlantic believes it can open new therapeutic inroads to an efficient and lasting treatment for cancer.

In particular, CT Atlantic is focusing on a small number of drug targets that are believed to play important roles in the immune system’s response to cancer. Principle amongst these are the CT antigens.

CT Antigens
CT antigens represent an important focus of CT Atlantic. Some CT antigens are highly immunogenic in cancer patients and exhibit an almost unique tissue-restricted expression pattern, largely limited to the Cancer and the Testis (hence CT antigens). They are key recruiters of the immune system in terms of recognizing the tumor as being “foreign”, and their expression correlates with malignancy. On the other hand, while they are expressed in the testis, they are not presented to the immune system in this tissue and thus – in terms of immune recognition as well as expression, are highly specific for cancer cells. To date, 44 CT gene families have been identified and their expression studied in the many cancer types in which they are frequently expressed.

Little is known today about the function of CT antigens. They are present in the cytosol of cancer cells and germ cells. CT antigens can be divided into two groups depending on whether they are encoded on the X-chromosome or not. In general, CT-X antigens are generally expressed in the proliferating germ cells – spermatogonia, and the non-X CTs are expressed more predominantly in later stages of germ cell differentiation such as in spermatocytes.