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What is Tn Antigen?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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The Tn antigen is an antigen which can be found on certain types of malignant cells. Tests for Tn antigen can be performed to learn more about a malignancy. This antigen is studied by researchers who are interested in how malignancies develop, and why some malignancies are more aggressive than others. It is also of interest to oncologists, laboratory workers, and other people who participate in the diagnosis and treatment of people with malignancies.

In healthy cells, production of Tn antigen is suppressed. The immune system actually has some antibodies to Tn antigen, illustrating the fact that it should not appear in the body when someone is healthy. When cells become malignant, they start producing Tn antigen. This antigen can be a precursor to T antigen, another type of antigen associated with malignancy, or it may occur on its own, depending on the location and type of malignancy.

While some people may think of cancer cells as being more or less the same, they are actually quite varied. The antigens and other structures on their surface can provide valuable information about where the cells originated, how quickly they are growing, and how aggressive the cancer will be. A high concentration of Tn antigen on the surface of a cancer cell indicates that the cancer is aggressive and highly malignant. Other variations in cell surface, size, shape, and structure can provide valuable clues to people involved in the formulation of a patient's treatment plan.

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Tn antigen also appears to play a role in adhesion, the process which allows cancer cells to stick to other cells. More adhesion allows the cancer to spread quickly and more efficiently, making cells with more adhesion very undesirable from a medical perspective. T antigen can also increase the adhesion of a cancer cell. A pathologist can determine which known antigens are present on cancer cells during the analysis of a biopsy sample to find out more about the malignancy.

The presence of Tn antigen has a number of potential implications when it comes to cancer research and the development of new cancer treatments. Since the antigen is unique and appears to be associated with numerous cancers, it could be possible to develop medications which will specifically target cells which are expressing Tn antigen. This would allow for highly specific and customized cancer treatment. This would reduce damage caused by destruction of healthy cells, an issue which contributes to the hardship of cancer treatment for patients.

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