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Clin Cancer Res. 2005 Aug 15;11(16):5869-77.

P-cadherin overexpression is an indicator of clinical outcome in invasive breast carcinomas and is associated with CDH3 promoter hypomethylation.

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  • 1Institute of Pathology and Molecular Immunology of Porto University (IPATIMUP), Braga, Portugal.



P-cadherin overexpression has been reported in breast carcinomas, where it was associated with proliferative high-grade histological tumors. This study aimed to analyze P-cadherin expression in invasive breast cancer and to correlate it with tumor markers, pathologic features, and patient survival. Another purpose was to evaluate the P-cadherin promoter methylation pattern as the molecular mechanism underlying this gene regulation.


Using a series of invasive breast carcinomas, P-cadherin expression was evaluated and correlated with histologic grade, estrogen receptor, MIB-1, and p53 and c-erbB-2 expression. In order to assess whether P-cadherin expression was associated with changes in CDH3 promoter methylation, we studied the methylation status of a gene 5'-flanking region in these same carcinomas. This analysis was also done for normal tissue and for a breast cancer cell line treated with a demethylating agent.


P-cadherin expression showed a strong correlation with high histologic grade, increased proliferation, c-erbB-2 and p53 expression, lack of estrogen receptor, and poor patient survival. This overexpression can be regulated by gene promoter methylation because the 5-Aza-2'-deoxycytidine treatment of MCF-7/AZ cells increased P-cadherin mRNA and protein levels. Additionally, we found that 71% of P-cadherin-negative cases showed promoter methylation, whereas 65% of positive ones were unmethylated (P = 0.005). The normal P-cadherin-negative breast epithelial cells showed consistent CDH3 promoter methylation.


P-cadherin expression was strongly associated with tumor aggressiveness, being a good indicator of clinical outcome. Moreover, the aberrant expression of P-cadherin in breast cancer might be regulated by gene promoter hypomethylation.

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