Differential expression of c-Met, its ligand HGF/SF and HER2/neu in DCIS and adjacent normal breast tissue


Prof. Nadia Harbeck, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Technical University, D-81675 Munich, Germany. e-mail: nadia.harbeck@lrz.tum.de


Aims:  Tyrosine kinase receptors Her2/neu and c-Met play an important role in breast cancer development and progression. Our aim was to determine the expression of c-Met, its ligand hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF) and Her2/neu in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) lesions of the breast (n = 39) by two different immunocytochemical techniques, classical immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence, and to correlate their expression levels with histopathological and clinical characteristics.

Methods and results:  Both methods revealed similar c-Met staining patterns in both the in situ component and the adjacent normal tissue (P < 0.001). However, an imbalance in c-Met expression between tumour and surrounding normal tissue was correlated with high-grade DCIS (Van Nuys Grade 3). No correlation existed between Her2/neu and c-Met expression. High HGF/SF immunoreactivity was observed in 43.6% of the cases, yet the adjacent cellular stroma revealed only low levels of HGF/SF. No correlation existed between c-Met, Her2/neu or HGF/SF expression and clinicopathological factors.

Conclusion:  An imbalance in c-Met expression between tumour and surrounding normal tissue is associated with an aggressive DCIS phenotype. Moreover, c-Met and HGF/SF may contribute to tumour development by different means than those controlled by Her2/neu.