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J Pathol. 2001 Jun;194(2):254-61.

Expression of CD31 by cells of extensive ductal in situ and invasive carcinomas of the breast.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences and Human Oncology, University of Torino Medical School, Torino, Italy.


CD31, an adhesion molecule expressed by endothelial cells, leukocytes, and platelets, is used in surgical pathology as a marker of normal and neoplastic vascularization. During the assessment of angiogenesis in breast carcinomas, CD31 expression was observed in a single case of large (5.2 cm diameter) high nuclear grade ductal carcinoma in situ (HG-DCIS) associated with poorly differentiated invasive ductal carcinoma (G3-IDC). Expression was limited to the cell membrane. This study focused on 32 HG-DCIS> or = 2 cm, either pure or associated with IDC. Cancer cells wereCD31(+) in 11 cases. Double staining using anti-CD31 monoclonal antibody (MAb) and anti-CD44 MAb, the anti-hyaluronate receptor, showed that foci of CD31(+) and CD44(-) tumour cells could be traced throughout the glandular tree, marking the intraductal diffusion of tumour up to Paget's cells at the nipple. The associated G3-IDC and their lymph node metastases were instead CD31(+) and CD44(+). CD31(+) tumours were oestrogen receptor (ER)(-), frequently p53(+) and c-erb-B2(+), and infiltrated by CD4(+) T lymphocytes. Normal and hyperplastic epithelia were constantly CD31(-). Other endothelial markers (e.g Factor VIII-RA and CD34) were not expressed by carcinoma cells, as was CD38, the CD31 ligand. In conclusion, CD31 expression is a feature acquired by breast cancer cells in the DCIS model. CD31 expression mainly correlates with tumour cells spreading within the ductal system. Finally, the invasive phenotype requires the co-expression of CD31 and CD44.

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