BRCA1 is a tumour suppresser gene frequently mutated in familial breast cancer and thought to influence the progression of sporadic breast cancer. Decreased BRCA1 mRNA and protein expression has been identified in breast cancer cell lines and sporadic breast tumours. Here the prognostic significance of reduced BRCA1 protein expression is investigated in primary operable breast cancer. Immunohistochemical analysis was used to determine the level of BRCA1 protein expression in 100 breast cancers. BRCA1 expression was compared with known prognostic factors and survival to investigate its prognostic significance. BRCA1 nuclear expression was reduced by varying amounts in breast carcinomas. A progressive loss of BRCA1 expression correlated well with higher histological grade (p = 0.002) and an excess of medullary/atypical medullary/grade 3 ductal carcinomas (p = 0.0001). When adjusted for grade, patients with loss of BRCA1 expression had a significantly longer disease-free survival time. Loss of BRCA1 expression associated with high-grade breast tumours suggests that BRCA1 may play an important role in the pathogenesis of sporadic breast cancer.
Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.