Authors: Vieira AF, Dionísio MR, Gomes M, Cameselle-Teijeiro JF, Lacerda M, Amendoeira I, Schmitt F, Paredes J
Axillary lymph node metastases represent the most powerful breast cancer prognostic factor, dictating disease staging and clinical therapeutic decisions. Nonetheless, breast cancer patients with positive lymph nodes still exhibit a heterogeneous behavior regarding disease progression. Stem-like subpopulations of cancer cells show high migratory and metastatic capacity, thus we hypothesize that breast cancer stem cell markers evaluation in metastasized lymph nodes could provide a more accurate prediction of patient’s prognosis. Therefore, the expression profile of P-cadherin, CD44, and CD49f, which have been already associated to stem cell properties in breast cancer, has been evaluated by immunohistochemistry in a series of 135 primary tumors and matched axillary lymph node metastases from 135 breast cancer patients. Taking in consideration the expression of the stem cell markers only in axillary nodes, P-cadherin was the only biomarker significantly associated with poor disease-free and overall patient’s survival. Moreover, although a concordant expression between primary tumors and matched lymph nodes has been found in the majority of the cases, a small but significant percentage displayed divergent expression (18.2–26.2%). Remarkably, although CD44 and CD49f changes between primary tumors and lymph node metastasis did not impact survival, the cases that were positive for P-cadherin in lymph node metastases being negative in the primary tumor, presented the worst disease-free and overall survival of the whole series. Accordingly, negative cases for this marker in the lymph nodes with positive expression in the matched breast carcinoma demonstrated a better prognosis, which overlapped with tumors that were negative in both sites. P-cadherin and CD49f gain of expression was mainly found in triple-negative carcinomas. Our results indicate for the first time that the evaluation of P-cadherin expression in lymph node metastases is an important predictor of disease outcome, being a putative valuable marker for axillary-based breast cancer decisions in the clinical practice.
Modern Pathology, 30 (2017), 698–709