CC BY 4.0 · Glob Med Genet 2021; 08(04): 176-182
DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1735590
Original Article

From Anti-Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Immune Response to Cancer Onset via Molecular Mimicry and Cross-Reactivity

1  Department of Biosciences, Biotechnologies, and Biopharmaceutics, University of Bari, Bari, Italy
› Author Affiliations
Funding None.


Background and Objectives Whether exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) may predispose to the risk of cancer in individuals with no prior cancers is a crucial question that remains unclear. To confirm/refute possible relationships between exposure to the virus and ex novo insurgence of tumors, this study analyzed molecular mimicry and the related cross-reactive potential between SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein (gp) antigen and human tumor-suppressor proteins.

Materials and Methods Tumor-associated proteins were retrieved from UniProt database and analyzed for pentapeptide sharing with SARS-CoV-2 spike gp by using publicly available databases.

Results An impressively high level of molecular mimicry exists between SARS-CoV-2 spike gp and tumor-associated proteins. Numerically, 294 tumor-suppressor proteins share 308 pentapeptides with the viral antigen. Crucially, the shared peptides have a relevant immunologic potential by repeatedly occurring in experimentally validated epitopes. Such immunologic potential is of further relevancy in that most of the shared peptides are also present in infectious pathogens to which, in general, human population has already been exposed, thus indicating the possibility of immunologic imprint phenomena.

Conclusion This article described a vast peptide overlap between SARS-CoV-2 spike gp and tumor-suppressor proteins, and supports autoimmune cross-reactivity as a potential mechanism underlying prospective cancer insurgence following exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Clinically, the findings call for close surveillance of tumor sequelae that possibly could result from the current coronavirus pandemic.

Supplementary Material

Publication History

Received: 16 July 2021

Accepted: 02 August 2021

Publication Date:
07 September 2021 (online)

© 2021. The Author(s). This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, permitting unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction so long as the original work is properly cited. (

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