Semi-quantitative immunohistochemical analysis of aromatase expression in ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast

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SummaryAlthough estrogens whose production is catalyzed by aromatase are considered to play a role in human breast carcinogenesis, it remains unclear whether aromatase expression occurs in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of the breast. Aromatase expression in 61 cases of pure DCIS and 101 cases of invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) was investigated by immunohistochemical analysis using a polyclonal anti-aromatase antibody. The level of aromatase expression was semiquantified by the H-score which was estimated by the percentage of positive-staining cells and the intensity of staining. The levels of aromatase expression were compared between the DCIS and IDC samples, and were also compared among the tumor cells and stromal cells in the DCIS and IDC samples. Positive cytoplasmic staining for aromatase expression was found not only in stromal cells but also in tumor cells. The levels of aromatase expression in the tumor cells and stromal cells from the DCIS samples were significantly higher than those in the respective cells from the IDC samples. Among the DCIS samples, those specimens from patients of ages 50 years or over showed higher levels of aromatase expression in stromal cells, than those from patients below 50 years. The finding that significantly higher aromatase expression levels were found in DCIS than in IDC indicates that it may be possible to treat DCIS patients with aromatase inhibitors, especially as an adjuvant hormonal therapy for postmenopausal patients.

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