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Mod Pathol. 2005 Feb;18(2):250-9.

Reduced PTEN expression predicts relapse in patients with breast carcinoma treated by tamoxifen.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 0W8, Canada.


Tamoxifen treatment substantially improves the 10-year survival of women with estrogen-receptor (ER)-alpha-positive tumors. However, approximately one-third of all breast cancer patients with ER-alpha-positive tumors progress on antiestrogen therapy. The molecular mechanism(s) involved in antiestrogen-resistant phenotype of breast carcinoma is not completely understood. The PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome Ten) gene is a novel candidate tumor suppressor that plays an important role in cell cycle regulation and apoptosis by regulating Protein kinase-B/Akt activity. Previous studies have shown that PTEN downregulation in breast cancer is associated with high-grade tumor, distant metastases and poorer disease-free survival. Decreased PTEN and/or increased protein kinase B/Akt activity in breast cancer cells has recently been associated with resistance to tamoxifen-induced apoptosis. In this study, we have evaluated PTEN expression by immunohistochemistry in 100 tamoxifen-treated ER-alpha-positive breast cancer patients. Reduced PTEN protein expression was associated with shorter relapse-free survival. When stage I patients were analyzed separately, reduced PTEN expression was a strong predictor of both, shorter relapse-free survival and shorter disease-specific survival. An association of reduced PTEN expression with shorter relapse-free survival and disease-specific survival in stage I patients was still observed after stratification by stage, axillary lymph node status, tumor size, grade, and expression of ER-alpha, progesterone receptor, and Her-2/neu. In summary, our results showed a strong association between downregulation of PTEN expression in ER-alpha-positive tumors and failure to tamoxifen treatment.

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