Tumour cell invasion and metastasis are the processes which kill most cancer patients. Tumour cells with the greatest invasive and metastatic capacity may be those with the highest number of genetic aberrations. The present study has analysed the expression of several tumour-related proteins in both primary tumours and metastatic lesions from 34 breast cancer patients. Protein expression of p53, bcl-2, p21, cyclin D1, E-cadherin, alpha-catenin, beta-catenin, and gamma-catenin was investigated by immunohistochemistry (IHC) using monoclonal antibodies. Metastatic tissue showed a different expression profile from the primary tumour in most patients. The most significant finding was the re-expression of E-cadherin, alpha-catenin, and beta-catenin, and increased down-regulation of gamma-catenin, in metastatic lesions. These results demonstrate that tumour cells, when released from the primary site and after regrowth elsewhere, are capable of re-expression of adhesion molecules. gamma-catenin may play a different role in metastatic lesions than in primary tumours, since it is selectively down-regulated in tumour tissue at the metastatic site.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.