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Oncol Rep. 2014 Mar;31(3):1127-32. doi: 10.3892/or.2013.2943. Epub 2013 Dec 23.

The role of CD44+/CD24-/low biomarker for screening, diagnosis and monitoring of breast cancer.

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Department of Experimental Oncology, National Cancer Institute, G. Pascale, Naples, Italy.
Department of Orthopedic, Traumatologic, Rehabilitative and Plastic-Reconstructive Sciences, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy.
Department of Surgery, Oncology and Gastroenterology, Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Padua University Hospital, Padua, Italy.
Department of Pathology, National Cancer Institute, G. Pascale, Naples, Italy.
Department of Senology, National Cancer Institute, G. Pascale, Naples, Italy.


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been defined as 'a cell within a tumor that possesses the capacity to self-renew and to cause the heterogeneous lineages of cancer cells that comprise the tumor'. The CSC hypothesis postulates that a small subpopulation of cancer cells drives tumor initiation, growth and metastasis. CSCs have been isolated from breast cancer using CD44+/CD24-/low phenotype. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the expression of CD44+/CD24-/low in two diverse breast carcinomas (ductal and lobular), and to determine the correlation between expression of CD44+/CD24-/low, and clinicopathological characteristics starting from human fresh breast cancer specimens. We analyzed specimens from 57 patients using CD44 and CD24 markers by flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry and correlated the CD44+/CD24-/low phenotype with clinicopathological characteristics. Moreover, mammosphere formation was tested. In all specimens tested, CD44+/CD24-/low phenotype was detectable with mean percentage of 4.73% as confirmed also by immunohistochemical analyses. A significant statistical association was found among these phenotypic groups and age, grade G3, estrogen and progesterone receptor, Ki-67 as well as lymph node metastasis. No correlation was found for histological type. In conclusion, our data showed that CD44+/CD24-/low phenotype was found at a high frequency in tumors pT2, G3, pN3, positive for Ki-67, and negative for estrogen and progesterone receptors highlighting the hypothesis that CD44+/CD24-/low profile correlates with the more aggressive clinical-pathological features of the disease.

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