Background: PN is a secreted cell adhesion protein critical for carcinogenesis. In breast cancer, it is overexpressed compared to normal breast, and a few reports suggest that it has a potential role as a prognostic marker. Methods: Tumour samples obtained at the time of mastectomy from 200 women followed for a median time of 18.7 years (range 0.5-29.5 years) were investigated through IHC with a polyclonal anti-PN antibody using tissue microarrays. Epithelial and stromal PN expression were scored independently according to the percentage of coloured cells; the 60th percentile of PN epithelial expression, corresponding to 1 %, and the median value of PN stromal expression, corresponding to 90 %, were used as arbitrary cut-offs. The relationships between epithelial and stromal PN expression and clinical-pathological features, tumour phenotype and the risk of mortality following surgery were analysed. Appropriate statistics, including the Fine and Gray competing risk proportional hazard regression model, were used. Results: The expression of PN in tumour epithelial cells was significantly lower than that which was observed in stromal cells (p <0.000). No specific association between epithelial or stromal PN expression and any of the clinical-pathological parameters analysed was found as it was observed in respect to mortality when these variables were analysed individually. However, when both variables were considered as a function of the other one, the expression of PN in the stromal cells maintained a statistically significant predictive value with respect to both all causes and cancer-specific mortality only in the presence of high epithelial expression levels. No significant differences in either all causes or BCa-specific mortality rates were shown according to epithelial expression for tumours displaying higher stromal PN expression rates. However, the trends were opposite for the higher stromal values and the patients with high epithelial expression levels denoted the group with the worst prognosis, while higher epithelial values in patients with lower stromal expression levels denoted the group with the best prognosis, suggesting that PN epithelial/stromal interactions play a crucial role in breast carcinogenesis, most likely due to functional cross-talk between the two compartments. On the basis of PN expression in both compartments, we defined 4 subgroups of patients with different mortality rates with the group of patients characterized by positive epithelial and low stromal PN expression cells showing the lowest mortality risk as opposed to the groups of patients identified by a high PN expression in both cell compartments or those identified by a low or absent PN expression in both cell compartments showing the worst mortality rates. The differences were highly statistically significant and were also retained after multiparametric analysis. Competing risk analysis demonstrated that PN expression patterns characterizing each of previous groups are specifically associated with cancer-specific mortality. Conclusions: Although they require further validation through larger studies, our findings suggest that the patterns of expression of PN in both compartments can allow for the development of IHC "signatures" that maintain a strong independent predictive value of both all causes and, namely, of cancer-specific mortality.
- Breast neoplasms
- Extracellular matrix proteins
- Human periostin protein
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research