Author(s): Kleer CG, van Golen KL, Braun T, Merajver SD
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Abstract E-cadherin is a transmembrane glycoprotein that mediates epithelial cell-to-cell adhesion. Because loss of E-cadherin expression results in disruption of cellular clusters, it has been postulated that E-cadherin functions as a tumor suppressor protein. The role of E-cadherin in inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a distinct and highly aggressive form of breast cancer, is largely unknown. The aim of our study was to elucidate whether E-cadherin expression contributes to the development and progression of the IBC phenotype and to investigate any differences in E-cadherin expression between IBC and stage-matched non-IBC. Forty-two breast cancer cases (20 IBC and 22 non-IBC) were identified. Strict and well-accepted criteria were used for the diagnosis of IBC. Clinical and pathologic features were studied, and formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections were immunostained for E-cadherin, estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER and PR, respectively), and HER2/neu. Statistical analysis was performed using Fisher's exact test. All IBC uniformly expressed E-cadherin, whereas 15 of the 22 (68\%) of the non-IBC expressed the protein (P = .006). Intralymphatic tumor emboli in the IBC cases were also all E-cadherin positive. Two IBC tumors demonstrated invasive lobular histology, and both cases were positive for E-cadherin. Of the non-IBC cases, three were invasive lobular carcinomas, and all were positive for E-cadherin. No association was found between E-cadherin expression and ER, PR status, or HER2/neu overexpression. Our study demonstrates that there is a strong association between E-cadherin expression and IBC and suggests that E-cadherin may be involved in the pathogenesis of this form of advanced breast cancer. In our study, we demonstrate that circulating IBC tumor cells strongly express E-cadherin, thereby providing an important exception to the positive association between E-cadherin loss and poor prognosis in breast cancer.
This article was published in Mod Pathol
and referenced in Journal of Cancer Science & Therapy