Markers of fibrosis and epithelial to mesenchymal transition demonstrate field cancerization in histologically normal tissue adjacent to breast tumors



Previous studies have shown that a field of genetically altered but histologically normal tissue extends 1 cm or more from the margins of human breast tumors. The extent, composition and biological significance of this field are only partially understood, but the molecular alterations in affected cells could provide mechanisms for limitless replicative capacity, genomic instability and a microenvironment that supports tumor initiation and progression. We demonstrate by microarray, qRT-PCR and immunohistochemistry a signature of differential gene expression that discriminates between patient-matched, tumor-adjacent histologically normal breast tissues located 1 cm and 5 cm from the margins of breast adenocarcinomas (TAHN-1 and TAHN-5, respectively). The signature includes genes involved in extracellular matrix remodeling, wound healing, fibrosis and epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). Myofibroblasts, which are mediators of wound healing and fibrosis, and intra-lobular fibroblasts expressing MMP2, SPARC, TGF-β3, which are inducers of EMT, were both prevalent in TAHN-1 tissues, sparse in TAHN-5 tissues, and absent in normal tissues from reduction mammoplasty. Accordingly, EMT markers S100A4 and vimentin were elevated in both luminal and myoepithelial cells, and EMT markers α-smooth muscle actin and SNAIL were elevated in luminal epithelial cells of TAHN-1 tissues. These results identify cellular processes that are differentially activated between TAHN-1 and TAHN-5 breast tissues, implicate myofibroblasts as likely mediators of these processes, provide evidence that EMT is occurring in histologically normal tissues within the affected field and identify candidate biomarkers to investigate whether or how field cancerization contributes to the development of primary or recurrent breast tumors.