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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Jan 1;10(1 Pt 1):178-83.

KIT (CD117)-positive breast cancers are infrequent and lack KIT gene mutations.

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Institute of Pathology, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.



KIT (CD117) is a transmembrane tyrosine kinase representing a target for STI571 (Glivec) therapy. Some KIT-overexpressing solid tumors have responded favorably to STI571, potentially because of the presence of KIT-activating mutations.


To investigate the epidemiology of KIT overexpression and mutations, we investigated a series of 1654 breast cancers. All tumors were analyzed by immunohistochemistry in a tissue microarray format.


KIT expression was always present in normal breast epithelium. However, cancer analysis revealed the only 43 of 1654 (2.6%) tumors were KIT-positive. KIT expression was more frequent in medullary cancer (9 of 47 positive; 19.1%) than in any other histological tumor subtype (P < 0.001). KIT expression was significantly associated with high tumor grade (P < 0.0001) but unrelated to pT and pN categories or patient survival. Mutation analysis of exons 2, 8, 9, 11, 13, and 17 was negative in 10 KIT-positive tumors.


Overall, our data show that a high level of KIT expression occurs infrequently in breast cancer. KIT-positive breast cancers may not reflect "KIT up-regulation" because KIT is also expressed in normal breast epithelium. The lack of KIT mutations also argues against the therapeutic efficacy of STI571 in breast cancer.

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