Activated Akt signaling pathway in invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast: correlation with HER2 overexpression

Sung-Shin Park, Sung-Won Kim
Oncology Reports 2007, 18 (1): 139-43
Akt/PKB is a serine/threonine kinase that plays a crucial role in cell survival and apoptosis. Aberrant activation of pAkt is associated with various malignant human cancers, including breast carcinoma. In vitro studies show that pAkt activation is mediated by estrogen and acts as a downstream effector of HER2 with implications in breast cancer progression and drug resistance. We investigated the incidence of Akt activation in invasive ductal carcinoma and its correlation with other clinicopathological variables. Using tissue microarray technology, immunohistochemical expression of phosphorylated Akt (pAkt) at Ser-473 was evaluated in 127 cases of invasive ductal carcinomas, together with hormone receptors, HER2, p53, Ki-67 and other clinicopathological variables. Both nuclear and cytoplasmic expression was noted for pAkt, with 46 cases (36.2%) showing high cytoplasmic pAkt expression and 37 cases (29.1%) showing high nuclear pAkt expression. There was a significant association between both high cytoplasmic and nuclear pAkt expression with HER2 overexpression (both p<0.0001). There was also a positive correlation between high nuclear pAkt expression with both estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor status (p=0.042 and p=0.015, respectively). High cytoplasmic pAkt expression was associated with high Ki-67 expression (p=0.052), however, there was no association between pAkt and p53 expression. In the present study, activation of the Akt pathway shows strong association with HER2 overexpression, which is consistent with many in vitro studies. Our study also showed a positive correlation between pAkt and hormone receptors, which suggested the possible mechanism of endocrine resistance in ER-positive breast cancer. These results also suggest the prognostic value of pAkt and its importance in the prediction of therapeutic response in invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast.

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