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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Nov 1;10(21):7335-46.

Altered expression of metastasis-associated and regulatory molecules in effusions from breast cancer patients: a novel model for tumor progression.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Montebello, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



The aim of this study was to characterize phenotypic alterations along the progression of breast carcinoma from primary tumor to pleural effusion through analysis of the expression of proteases, laminin receptors (LRs), and transcription factors involved in invasion and metastasis.


The material studied consisted of 60 malignant pleural effusions from breast cancer patients and 68 corresponding solid tumors (37 primary and 31 metastatic tumors). Expression of matrix metalloproteinases [MMPs (MMP-1, MMP-2, MMP-9, and MMP-14)], the MMP inhibitor tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-2, the MMP inducer EMMPRIN, the 67-kDa LR, the alpha6 integrin subunit, and the transcription factors AP-2, Ets-1, and PEA3 was studied using immunohistochemistry, mRNA in situ hybridization, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, zymography, and flow cytometry. Hormone receptor (estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor) status and c-erbB-2 status were also studied.


Significantly reduced estrogen receptor (P < 0.001) and progesterone receptor (P = 0.001) expression was seen in effusions compared with primary tumors, with opposite findings for c-erbB-2 (P = 0.003). Tumor cell MMP-2 protein expression in effusions was higher than that in primary tumors (P < 0.001) and lymph node metastases (P = 0.01). In situ hybridization demonstrated higher MMP-2 (P = 0.007), PEA3 (P = 0.038), and EMMPRIN (P = 0.026) mRNA expression in effusions. The time to progression from primary tumor to effusion was significantly shorter for patients whose primary tumors expressed MMP-1 (P = 0.016) and who expressed the 67-kDa LR protein in primary tumor (P = 0.007) and effusion (P = 0.015).


Our data provide documented evidence of molecular events that occur during the progression of breast carcinoma from primary tumor to effusion. The coordinated up-regulation of MMP-2 and Ets transcription factors in carcinoma cells in effusions is in full agreement with our previous reports linking these factors to poor prognosis in ovarian cancer. The rapid progression to effusion in cases showing MMP-1 and 67-kDa LR expression in primary tumor cells links aggressive clinical behavior with expression of metastasis-associated molecules in this setting.

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