Ductal carcinoma in situ with basal-like phenotype: a possible precursor to invasive basal-like breast cancer

Bradley B Bryan, Stuart J Schnitt, Laura C Collins
Modern Pathology 2006, 19 (5): 617-21
Basal-like carcinomas have recently been identified in gene expression profiling studies as a subtype of invasive breast cancer. These lesions are estrogen receptor (ER)-negative, progesterone receptor (PR)-negative, and HER2-negative (triple negative), and typically express basal cytokeratins, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and/or c-kit. As poorly differentiated invasive ductal carcinomas, they presumably have a ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) precursor with similar cytologic and immunophenotypic features. However, the frequency and even the existence of a DCIS lesion with an immunophenotype analogous to that of invasive basal-like carcinomas have not been previously evaluated. We studied 66 cases of high nuclear grade DCIS using antibodies to ER, PR, HER2, three basal cytokeratins, EGFR, and c-kit to determine the frequency of the triple negative phenotype, and to determine the relationship between the triple negative phenotype and expression of basal cytokeratins and other biomarkers characteristically expressed by invasive basal-like carcinomas. Four cases (6%) exhibited the triple negative phenotype; the remaining cases showed other combinations of ER, PR, and HER2 expression (nontriple negative). Basal cytokeratins, EGFR, or both were expressed by all four triple negative lesions, but by only 21 of 51 (42%) nontriple negative cases (P = 0.04). We conclude that a small proportion of high-grade ductal carcinomas in situ exhibit an ER-negative/PR-negative/HER2-negative (triple negative) phenotype, and these lesions more commonly show expression of basal cytokeratins and/or EGFR than nontriple negative high-grade DCIS. Given that invasive breast cancers typically share immunophenotypic features with the ductal carcinoma in situ from which they arise, our findings raise the possibility that the triple-negative, basal cytokeratin and/or EGFR-positive DCIS lesions we identified represent a precursor lesion to invasive basal-like carcinomas.

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