A procedure has been described for the purification of the carcinoembryonic antigens (CEA) of the human digestive system. Tumor tissue extraction in 0.6 M perchloric acid followed by paper block electrophoresis and column chromatography on Sephadex G-200 resulted in highly purified CEA preparations as determined by both immunological and physicochemical criteria.
The properties and composition of five different purified CEA preparations derived from digestive system cancer metastases were examined. The findings demonstrated a high degree of uniformity amongst these samples. Sedimentation coefficients ranged from 6.9 to 8S. Each sample showed the presence of 14 different amino acid residues and six different carbohydrate constituents (four of which could be quantitated with the amount of material available for analyis). Studies of a purified CEA preparation from a primary hepatoma yielded results which, in some respects, differed from those obtained with the CEA samples of metastatic tumor origin. The implications of these variations were discussed with regard to the probable presence of non-CEA components in the hepatoma preparation.
Of primary importance was the observation that the few normal adult digestive system tissues tested failed to show the presence of constituents similar to the CEA. This finding would seem to indicate that, in the adult, the carcinoembryonic antigens of the human digestive system are qualitatively tumor-specific and are not dectectable in comparable normal tissues.