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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Mar 15;10(6):2052-7.

Estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor-negative breast cancers of young African-American women have a higher frequency of methylation of multiple genes than those of Caucasian women.

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  • 1Breast Cancer Program, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



To provide a molecular rationale for negative prognostic factors more prevalent in African-American (AA) than Caucasian (Cau) women, we investigated the frequency of promoter hypermethylation in invasive ductal breast cancers in the two races.


HIN-1, Twist, Cyclin D2, RAR-beta, and RASSF1A were analyzed in DNA from 67 AA and 44 Cau invasive ductal breast cancers, stratified by age and estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor (ER/PR) status, by methylation-specific PCR. Hierarchical multiple logistic regression analysis was applied to determine estimated probabilities of methylation. Expression of HIN-1 mRNA was analyzed by in situ hybridization and quantitative reverse transcribed PCR.


Significant differences between races were observed in the ER-/PR-, age < 50 subgroup; AA tumors had higher frequency of methylation (P < 0.001) in four of five genes as compared with Cau and also a higher prevalence (80 versus 0%; P < 0.005) of three or more methylated genes per tumor. No differences in gene methylation patterns were observed across the two races for ER+/PR+ tumors in all ages and ER-/PR- tumors in age > 50. ER+/PR+ status was associated with higher frequency of methylation in Cau tumors of all ages but only with the age > 50 subgroup in AA. Frequent Cyclin D2 methylation was significantly associated (P = 0.01) with shorter survival time.


ER-/PR-, age < 50 tumors in AA women, have a significantly higher frequency of hypermethylation than in those of Cau women. Comparative studies, such as these, could provide a molecular basis for differences in tumor progression and pathology seen in the two races.

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