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Keywords:

  • Mammary carcinogenesis;
  • Immunohistochemistry

Abstract

Estrogens are important for stimulating the growth of a large proportion of breast cancers. Progesterone plays critical roles in breast development and tumorigenesis. The c-erbB2 gene (HER-2/neu) is a proto-oncogene expressed in 10–34% of breast cancers. Its expression is associated with poor clinical outcome. The hypothesis that the progression of in situ ductal carcinoma of breast to invasive ductal carcinoma is associated with alterations of ER, PgR and HER-2/neu protein expression was tested. Of 100 mastectomy specimens examined, all contained both ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive ductal carcinomas (IDC) not otherwise specified (NOS). The status of ER, PgR and HER-2/neu proteins was examined by immunochemistry. ER and PgR protein expression was scored as the mean value of positively stained cells. HER-2/neu protein expression was evaluated on ts staining pattern (0, 1+, 2+ and 3+). We found variations between DCIS and IDC with significant decrease of the mean values of ER and PgR positively stained cells in high-grade (Grade 3) IDC (ER: 49.2 ± 10.3 vs. 30.8 ± 5.5 and PgR: 40.0 ± 10.0 vs. 22.3 ± 5.1 in DCIS and IDC, respectively, P < 0.05). Invasive carcinomas with lymph node metastases or lymphovascular invasion or both had lower mean values of ER and PgR positively stained cells compared to those without these features. In IDC (Grade 3), HER-2/neu protein expression values (1.2 ± 0.2) were significantly high compared to DCIS (0.7 ± 0.3, P < 0.05). In addition, HER-2/neu protein expression values were significantly higher (P < 0.05) in IDC with lymph node metastases or lymphovascular invasion (1.5 ± 0.3) than those without these features (0.8 ± 0.2). A significantly high mean (P < 0.05) of ER and PgR positively stained cells was observed in postmenopausal females compared to premenopausal women. In contrast, high HER-2/neu expression values were seen only in premenopausal females. A significant positive correlation was observed between ER and PgR receptor expression (r = 0.81). A low degree inverse correlation (r = −0.24, P < 0.012) was found between ER+/PgR+ tumors and HER-2/neu expression. These findings substantiate the notion that breast cancer progression is often associated with alterations of ER, PgR and HER-2/neu expression. The underlying mechanisms of these alterations are open for further investigation.