Placental ferritin is a tumour associated antigen present in the serum of patients with active Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and the serum values fall during remission of the disease. There is no correlation between placental and total blood ferritin values. Because of the strong association between coeliac disease and lymphoma, 19 children with active and 25 with inactive coeliac disease were screened for the presence of placental ferritin. Thirty two children with other intestinal disorders served as controls. Placental ferritin was identified by using a monoclonal antibody in an ELISA procedure. The mean (SEM) placental ferritin value in the control serum was 12.6 (2.4) while the values in serum of patients with active and inactive coeliac disease were 117 (22.8) and 43.8 (10.2) U/ml respectively. Patients with active coeliac disease differed significantly from both control subjects (p = 0.0004) and those with inactive disease (p = 0.03). Peripheral blood lymphocytes contained no placental ferritin. It was present, however, in lamina propria lymphocytes of intestinal biopsy specimens from active coeliacs. Placental ferritin was also found in some of the better differentiated malignant cells in two patients with adult onset enteropathy associated lymphoma. Placental ferritin is known to have an immunosuppressive effect, and this may be one of the necessary steps in the development of malignancy associated with coeliac disease. Gluten free diet, by reversing this state, may have a role in the prevention of lymphoma.
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