• Open Access

Subtype-specific alterations of the Wnt signaling pathway in breast cancer: Clinical and prognostic significance


To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: ckpanda.cnci@gmail.com


The aim of the study is to understand the importance of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in the development of breast cancer (BC) and its association with different clinicopathological parameters. Alterations (deletion/methylation/expression) of some Wnt/β-catenin pathway antagonists like APC, SFRP1/2, CDH1 and activator β-catenin (CTNNB1) were analyzed in primary BC in Indian patients. High frequencies (65–70%) of overall alterations (deletion/methylation) of the antagonists were seen in the BC samples. Also, 99% (156/158) of the samples showed alterations in any one of the genes, indicating the importance of this pathway in the development of this tumor. Co-alterations of these genes were observed in 30% of samples, with significantly high alterations in late-onset (37%) and estrogen receptor (ER)−/progesterone receptor (PR)− (37%) BC compared with early onset (21%) and ER/PR+ (18%) BC samples, respectively. Significantly high (P-value = 0.001–0.02) alterations of APC and CDH1 genes were seen in ER−/PR− BC compared with ER/PR+ BC. Immunohistochemical analysis showed reduced expression of the Wnt antagonists in BC concordant with their molecular alterations. Nuclear localization of β-catenin showed significant association with alterations in the antagonists and was also significantly high in the ER−/PR− BC samples. Alterations of SFRP2 coupled with a late clinical stage and low/nulliparity predicted the worst prognosis in BC patients. Therefore, the present study suggests that cumulative alterations in more than one Wnt antagonist along with increased nuclear accumulation of β-catenin play an important role in the development of BC and have significant clinical as well as prognostic importance. (Cancer Sci 2012; 103: 210–220)