Osteopontin-c is a selective marker of breast cancer

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While the acquisition of invasiveness is a critical step in early stage breast carcinomas (DCIS), no established molecular markers reliably identify tumor progression. The metastasis gene osteopontin is subject to alternative splicing, which yields 3 messages, osteopontin-a, osteopontin-b and osteopontin-c. Osteopontin-c is selectively expressed in invasive, but not in noninvasive, breast tumor cell lines, and it effectively supports anchorage independence. We evaluated osteopontin-c as a biomarker. The RNA message for osteopontin-c was present in 16 of 20 breast cancers (80%), but was undetectable in 22 normal specimens obtained from reduction mammoplasty. In contrast, osteopontin-a RNA was expressed at various levels in all 20 breast cancers, 11 tumor-surrounding tissues and 21 normal samples. The splice variant osteopontin-b was present at barely detectable levels in 18 of 20 cancers and in 6 of 22 normal breasts. By immunohistochemistry, 66 of 69 normal breasts were negative, while 3 showed low level staining. Among the breast cancers, 43 of 56 cores (77%) stained positive for osteopontin-c. When correlated with tumor grade, the staining for osteopontin-c increased from grade 1 to grade 3. In a total of 178 breast specimens analyzed, osteopontin-c was present in 78% of cancers, 36% of surrounding tissues and 0% of normal tissues. Furthermore, osteopontin-c detects a higher fraction of breast cancers than estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor or HER2. In conjunction, osteopontin-c, ER and HER2 reliably predict grade 2–3 breast cancer. Hence, osteopontin-c is a diagnostic and prognostic marker that may have value in a diagnostic panel together with conventional breast cancer markers.

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