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Breast J. 2004 Jul-Aug;10(4):323-7.

Expression of c-kit proto-oncogene product in breast tissue.

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Department of Pathology, University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


The proto-oncogene c-kit encodes a transmembrane tyrosine kinase growth factor receptor. Stem cell factor, the receptor ligand, plays an important role in the development of certain neoplasms. c-kit is selectively and competitively bound by STI-571, a newly developed tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Several investigators report conflicting results concerning its expression, especially in malignant breast lesions. The objective of this study was to better characterize the expression of c-kit within the spectrum of breast epithelium (normal breast epithelium, nonneoplastic lesions, and breast carcinoma). Seventy-seven randomly selected breast tissue samples, each containing normal breast epithelium (21), invasive breast carcinoma (41), in situ breast carcinoma (29), papilloma (8), fibroadenoma (5), fibrocystic change (11), and/or metastatic breast carcinoma (4), were immunostained with polyclonal rabbit antihuman c-kit (Dako, Carpenteria, CA) at a dilution of 1:200. The staining was interpreted as negative if no cells were immunoreactive, weak positive if 5% of the cells were immunoreactive, and positive if more than 5% of the cells were immunoreactive. Appropriate positive and negative controls were used. The observed staining was cytoplasmic, with highlighting of the nuclear membrane. Normal breast epithelium was positive in all cases. More than half of the cases of hyperplastic changes and benign neoplasms (fibroadenoma and papilloma) were positive. Only 10% of invasive and in situ carcinomas showed positivity for c-kit. c-kit is consistently expressed in normal breast epithelium, variably expressed in benign breast lesions, and poorly expressed in breast carcinoma. These data suggest that c-kit may play a role in breast tumor progression and may therefore have diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic implications.

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