High expression of the trefoil protein TFF1 in interval breast cancers

Am J Pathol. 2001 Jul;159(1):215-21. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)61687-2.


Breast cancer screening is important for the early detection of breast cancer. Tumors that become symptomatic in the screening interval are known as interval cancers but the reasons for their rapid progression are unknown. Estrogen receptor expression is lower in interval cancers suggesting that they may have reduced hormonal responsiveness. To investigate this hypothesis we have measured the expression of the estrogen receptor and three estrogen-responsive genes (cathepsin D, progesterone receptor, and TFF1) in screen-detected and interval breast cancers. The expression of the protease cathepsin D was not associated with estrogen receptor in either group of tumor. Progesterone receptor expression was highly correlated with that of the estrogen receptor in both groups of tumors but it was not expressed at significantly different levels in the two groups of tumors. Expression of TFF1, a cellular motogen, was correlated with estrogen receptor in screen-detected but not interval cancers and was expressed at markedly higher levels in interval breast tumors, the group that expresses lower levels of estrogen receptor. Interval cancers are characterized by high levels of expression of TFF1 and/or Ki67 suggesting that cell migration and cell division play important roles in the rapid progression of interval cancers. The observation that TFF1 expression in interval cancers tends to be estrogen-independent and that interval cancers have reduced estrogen receptor expression suggests they may have a reduced response to hormone therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cathepsin D / metabolism
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Mass Screening
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Regression Analysis
  • Trefoil Factor-1
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins


  • Estrogens
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Proteins
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • TFF1 protein, human
  • Trefoil Factor-1
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Cathepsin D