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Br J Cancer. 1999 Nov;81(6):1002-8.

The potential role for prolactin-inducible protein (PIP) as a marker of human breast cancer micrometastasis.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Manitoba, Faculty of Medicine, Winnipeg, Canada.


The prolactin-inducible protein (PIP/GCPD15) is believed to originate from a limited set of tissues, including breast and salivary glands, and has been applied as a clinical marker for the diagnosis of metastatic tumours of unknown origin. We have investigated the potential role of PIP mRNA as a marker of human breast cancer metastasis. Using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and Southern or dot blot analysis, PIP mRNA was detected in 4/6 breast cell lines, independent of oestrogen receptor (ER) status. In breast primary tumours (n = 97), analysed from histologically characterized sections, PIP mRNA was detected in most cases. Higher PIP mRNA levels correlated with ER+ (P = 0.0004), progesterone receptor positive (PR+) (P = 0.0167), low-grade (P = 0.0195) tumours, and also PIP protein levels assessed by immunohistochemistry (n = 19, P = 0.0319). PIP mRNA expression was also detectable in 11/16 (69%) of axillary node metastases. PIP mRNA expression, however, was also detected in normal breast duct epithelium, skin, salivary gland and peripheral blood leucocyte samples from normal individuals. We conclude that PIP mRNA is frequently expressed in both primary human breast tumours and nodal metastases. However, the presence of PIP expression in skin creates a potential source of contamination in venepuncture samples that should be considered in its application as a marker for breast tumour micrometastases.

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