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Cancer Res. 2011 Jun 1;71(11):4002-14. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-3738.

Hedgehog overexpression is associated with stromal interactions and predicts for poor outcome in breast cancer.

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Cancer Research, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Darlinghurst, NSW, Australia.


Hedgehog (Hh) signaling plays an important role in several malignancies but its clinical significance in breast cancer is unclear. In a cohort of 279 patients with invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast, expression of Hh ligand was significantly associated with increased risk of metastasis, breast cancer-specific death, and a basal-like phenotype. A paracrine signature, encompassing high epithelial Hh ligand and high stromal Gli1, was an independent predictor for overall survival in multivariate analysis. In 2 independent histological progression series (n = 301), Hh expression increased with atypia. Hh ligand overexpression in a mouse model of basal breast cancer increased growth, induced a poorly differentiated phenotype, accelerated metastasis, and reduced survival. A stromal requirement for these effects was supported by the lack of similar Hh-mediated changes in vitro, and by stromal-specific expression of Hh target genes in vivo. Furthermore, inhibition of Hh ligand with a monoclonal antibody (5E1) inhibited tumor growth and metastasis. These data suggest that epithelial-stromal Hh signaling, driven by ligand expression in carcinoma cells, promotes breast cancer growth and metastasis. Blockade of Hh signaling to peritumoral stromal cells may represent a novel therapeutic approach in some basal-like breast cancers.

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