Thymidylate synthase levels as a therapeutic and prognostic predictor in breast cancer

Anticancer Res. Nov-Dec 1999;19(6C):5621-6.


5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is a commonly used adjuvant therapeutic drug in treating breast cancer. 5-FU is metabolically converted to 5-fluorouracil-2'-deoxyuridine-5'-monophosphate-(FdUMP) which is believed to inhibit DNA synthesis in neoplastic cells by forming a tightly bound ternary complex with thymidylate synthase (TS). In the present study, we examined the possible relationship between TS levels and clinico-pathologic and prognostic features in breast disease. Mean TS levels of 2.9 pmol/g, 6.1 pmol/g, and 23.1 pmol/g were obtained in cases of benign breast disease (3 cases), primary breast cancer (115 cases), and recurrent tumors (4 cases), respectively. In breast cancer, mean TS levels significantly correlated with S-phase fraction (SPF), DNA polymerase a and lymphatic invasion. Thus, TS levels in breast cancer significantly reflected cell proliferation and malignancy. Regarding the survival rate, patients with TS values above 10 pmol/g showed an unfavorable prognosis. The effectiveness of adjuvant 5-FU derivatives chemotherapy was reflected in a higher disease-free survival rate in node (+) cases showing TS levels between 5 and 10 pmol/g (p < 0.1), but not in node (-) cases. In conclusion, TS levels in neoplastic tissues of the breast were highest in recurrent tumors, followed by those in primary cancer, benign breast disease and in breast cancer which reflected proliferative activity. Breast cancers with extremely high TS levels were accompanied by an unfavorable prognosis; however, those with moderately high TS levels tended to respond to adjuvant chemotherapy with 5-FU derivatives.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Analysis
  • Thymidylate Synthase / metabolism*


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Thymidylate Synthase
  • Fluorouracil