Epithelial-mesenchymal transition increases during the progression of in situ to invasive basal-like breast cancer

Yoomi Choi, Hee Jin Lee, Min Hye Jang, Jae Moon Gwak, Kyu Sang Lee, Eun Joo Kim, Hyun Jeong Kim, Hee Eun Lee, So Yeon Park
Human Pathology 2013, 44 (11): 2581-9
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is known to play an important role in breast cancer invasion and metastatic progression. However, the pattern of expression of EMT markers in the progression from in situ to invasive breast carcinoma is not clear. To investigate this, we performed immunohistochemical analyses of EMT markers (expression of vimentin, smooth muscle actin, osteonectin, and N-cadherin; loss of E-cadherin; alteration of β-catenin), breast cancer stem cell (CSC) markers (CD44(+)/CD24(-), ALDH1), and CD146, an EMT inducer, in invasive carcinomas and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of the breast. Expression of EMT markers was closely associated with the basal-like subtype and CSC phenotype in invasive carcinoma but not in pure DCIS, except for vimentin. The expression of smooth muscle actin and N-cadherin, loss of E-cadherin, and alteration of β-catenin were significantly higher in invasive carcinomas than in pure DCIS (P = .015, P = .029, P = .001, and P = .007, respectively). Subgroup analyses revealed greater loss of E-cadherin and alteration of β-catenin in invasive carcinoma than in pure DCIS in basal-like subtype (P = .001) but not in non-basal-like subtypes. Moreover, expression of EMT markers and CD146 was higher in the invasive than in the DCIS component of basal-like cancers. Our study confirmed that EMT is an intrinsic characteristic of basal-like subtype and is associated with CSC phenotype. Furthermore, we showed higher expression of EMT markers in invasive carcinomas than in pure DCIS, especially in basal-like subtype, and in the invasive component of basal-like breast cancers, suggesting that EMT may be involved in the progression from in situ to invasive basal-like breast cancers.

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