Gene expression abnormalities in histologically normal breast epithelium of breast cancer patients

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Normal-appearing epithelium of cancer patients can harbor occult genetic abnormalities. Data comprehensively comparing gene expression between histologically normal breast epithelium of breast cancer patients and cancer-free controls are limited. The present study compares global gene expression between these groups. We performed microarrays using RNA from microdissected histologically normal terminal ductal-lobular units (TDLU) from 2 groups: (i) cancer normal (CN) (TDLUs adjacent to untreated ER+ breast cancers (n= 14)) and (ii) reduction mammoplasty (RM) (TDLUs of age-matched women without breast disease (n= 15)). Cyber-T identified differentially expressed genes. Quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR), immunohistochemistry (IHC), and comparison to independent microarray data including 6 carcinomasin situ(CIS), validated the results. Gene ontology (GO), UniProt and published literature evaluated gene function. About 127 probesets, corresponding to 105 genes, were differentially expressed between CN and RM (p< 0.0009, corresponding to FDR <0.10). 104/127 (82%) probesets were also differentially expressed between CIS and RM, nearly always (102/104 (98%)) in the same direction as in CNvs. RM. Two-thirds of the 105 genes were implicated previously in carcinogenesis. Overrepresented functional groups included transcription, G-protein coupled and chemokine receptor activity, the MAPK cascade and immediate early genes. Most genes in these categories were under-expressed in CNvs. RM. We conclude that global gene expression abnormalities exist in normal epithelium of breast cancer patients and are also present in early cancers. Thus, cancer-related pathways may be perturbed in normal epithelium. These abnormalities could be markers of disease risk, occult disease, or the tissue's response to an existing tumor.

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