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Anticancer Res. 2001 Jan-Feb;21(1B):541-9.

Expression of transferrin receptor and ferritin H-chain mRNA are associated with clinical and histopathological prognostic indicators in breast cancer.

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Mastology Research Institute, Elliott Mastology Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70806, USA.


It is well known that iron plays an essential role in many biochemical reactions and that rapidly growing cells require more iron for their growth and metabolism than resting cells. Transferrin and its receptor are required for entry of iron into the cell. In contrast, ferritin is a cellular storage protein whose main function is to sequester excess ferric iron and thus prevent high concentrations of soluble ferric iron from becoming toxic to the cell. However, the clinical significance of both transferrin receptor and ferritin mRNA levels have not previously been described in tumors from breast cancer patients. In this study, tumor tissue mRNA levels of transferrin receptor and ferritin were quantitated on forty-two breast cancer patients. A highly sensitive non-radioisotopic cDNA polymerase chain reaction assay was used to quantitate expression of mRNA. The expression of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase served as the control. In the tumor tissue from the 42 breast cancer patients the transferrin receptor mRNA levels were significantly correlated to the ferritin H-chain mRNA levels (Spearman correlation r = 0.5433, p = 0.0002; Pearson correlation r = 0.6276, p < 0.0001). The level of amplified transferrin receptor complementary DNA was related to differentiation (ANOVA, p = 0.042) with poorly differentiated tumors having high levels of transferrin receptor mRNA. Further, the levels of amplified gene for ferritin heavy chain complementary DNA was directly related to axillary lymph nodes status (Student's t-test, p = 0.044), presence of metastatic disease (Student's t-test, p = 0.046) and clinical stage (stage I + stage II versus stage III + stage IV; Student's t-test, p = 0.0181). These results demonstrate that non-radioisotopic RT-PCR is a very sensitive method for determining mRNA levels in tumor tissue. Additionally, the quantitation of expression of transferrin receptor and ferritin heavy chain mRNA may be useful for assessing prognosis and guiding therapeutic decisions in breast cancer patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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