Human scFv antibody fragments specific for the epithelial tumour marker MUC-1, selected by phage display on living cells
New anti-cancer agents are being developed that specifically recognise tumour cells. Recognition is dependent upon the enhanced expression of antigenic determinants on the surface of tumour cells. The tumour exposure and the extracellular accessibility of the mucin MUC-1 make this marker a suitable target for tumour diagnosis and therapy. We isolated and characterised six human scFv antibody fragments that bound to the MUC-1 core protein, by selecting a large naive human phage display library directly on a MUC-1-expressing breast carcinoma cell line. Their binding characteristics have been studied by ELISA, FACS and indirect immunofluorescence. The human scFv antibody fragments were specific for the tandem repeat region of MUC-1 and their binding is inhibited by soluble antigen. Four human scFv antibody fragments (M2, M3, M8, M12) recognised the hydrophilic PDTRP region of the MUC-1 core protein which is thought to be an immunodominant region. The human scFv antibody fragments were stable in human serum at 37 deg C and retained their binding specificity. For imaging or targeting to tumours over-expressing MUC-1, it might be feasible to use these human scFv, or multivalent derivatives, as vehicles to deliver anti-cancer agents.