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Am J Pathol. 2009 Sep;175(3):940-6. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2009.081094. Epub 2009 Aug 21.

Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-4 is elevated in early-stage breast cancers with accelerated progression and poor clinical course.

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Department of Hematology/Oncology, Lankenau Hospital, 100 Lancaster Ave., Wynnewood, PA 19096, USA.


An increasing number of breast cancer patients are diagnosed with small, localized, early-stage tumors. These patients are typically thought to have a good prognosis for long-term disease-free survival, but epidemiological studies indicate that up to 30% may have a recurrence within 3 to 5 years of diagnosis. Identifying patients with a high risk of recurrence and/or progression is important because they could be more aggressively treated at diagnosis to improve their chances for disease-free survival. Recent evidence suggests that elevated levels of the matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-4, are associated with malignant progression of ductal carcinoma in situ, a precancerous lesion. To examine the association of TIMP-4 with survival outcomes, we conducted a retrospective immunohistochemical analysis of 314 cases from patients with early-stage disease, defined as tumors smaller than 2 cm and no spread to lymph nodes (tumor-node-metastasis staging: T1N0MX). We found that tumors with elevated levels of TIMP-4 were correlated with a reduced probability of long-term disease-free survival, especially in patients with estrogen receptor-negative tumors. Our findings prompt further evaluation of TIMP-4 as a simple prognostic marker that may help identify patients with early-stage breast cancer who could benefit from more aggressive treatment at diagnosis.

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