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Breast Cancer Res. 2005;7(4):143-8. Epub 2005 May 5.

Basal cytokeratins and their relationship to the cellular origin and functional classification of breast cancer.

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  • 1Division of Cancer Sciences and Molecular Pathology, Western Infirmary, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.


Recent publications have classified breast cancers on the basis of expression of cytokeratin-5 and -17 at the RNA and protein levels, and demonstrated the importance of these markers in defining sporadic tumours with bad prognosis and an association with BRCA1-related breast cancers. These important observations using different technology platforms produce a new functional classification of breast carcinoma. However, it is important in developing hypotheses about the pathogenesis of this tumour type to review the nomenclature that is being used to emphasize potential confusion between terminology that defines clinical subgroups and markers of cell lineage. This article reviews the lineages in the normal breast in relation to what have become known as the 'basal-like' carcinomas.

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