Profiling the humoral immune response in colon cancer patients: Diagnostic antigens from Streptococcus bovis

Harold Tjalsma*, Marie Schöller-Guinard, Edwin Lasonder, Theo J. Ruers, Hans L. Willems, Dorine W. Swinkels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


The human bowel contains a large and dynamic bacterial population that is not only essential for intestinal health, but also critical for the development of diseases such as cancer. In this respect, the Gram-positive bacterium Streptococcus bovis has been associated with colon cancer for many years. To investigate the clinical importance of this association, an immunocapture mass spectrometry assay was developed that can generate infection-related protein profiles. The composition of these profiles is governed by the capture of specific antigens by serum antibodies from colon cancer patients. This assay showed that S. bovis antigen profiles could distinguish 11 out of 12 colon cancer patients from 8 control subjects, whereas antigen profiles derived from the gut bacterium Escherichia coli were not diagnostic for colon cancer. Moreover, S. bovis antigen profiles were also detected in polyp patients, indicating that infection with this bacterium does occur early during carcinogenesis. Highly accurate tandem mass spectrometry was used to identify one of the diagnostic antigens as a surface-exposed heparin-binding protein, which might be involved in attachment of S. bovis to tumor cells. Together, these findings corroborate the hypothesis that colonic lesions provide a specific niche for S. bovis, resulting in tumor-associated "silent" infections. These infections, however, only become apparent in colon cancer patients with a compromised immune system (bacteremia) or coincidental cardiac valve lesions (endocarditis). This makes profiling of the humoral immune response against "silent" S. bovis infections a promising diagnostic tool for the early detection of human colon cancer, which is crucial for the effective treatment of this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2127-2135
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number9
Early online date13 Jul 2006
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


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