Androgen receptors frequently are expressed in breast carcinomas: potential relevance to new therapeutic strategies

Cancer. 2003 Aug 15;98(4):703-11. doi: 10.1002/cncr.11532.


Background: Several studies have demonstrated the biologic and therapeutic significance of estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER and PR) in breast carcinomas. The aim of the current study was to examine the presence of androgen receptors (AR) in breast carcinomas.

Methods: Two hundred cases of breast carcinoma, consisting of 145 invasive and 55 noninvasive (ductal carcinoma in situ [DCIS]) lesions, were examined using a monoclonal antibody against AR on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded archival material. The results were analyzed for correlations with immunohistochemically determined ER, PR, and HER-2/neu expression.

Results: Eighty-seven of the 145 cases (60%) of invasive carcinoma and 45 of the 55 cases (82%) of DCIS were AR-positive according to internationally standardized guidelines. The vast majority of Grade 1 carcinomas were positive for AR (90% of invasive Grade 1 carcinomas and 95% of Grade 1 DCIS), whereas in Grade 3 invasive carcinomas and DCIS, positive immunoreactions for AR were observed in 46% and 76% of cases, respectively. Among the cases of Grade 3 carcinoma, 33 invasive carcinomas (39%) and 17 DCIS lesions (68%) were ER-negative but AR-positive. Among Grade 1 carcinomas (invasive and DCIS), not a single case was positive for HER-2/neu, but most cases were intensely positive for AR. In contrast, many invasive Grade 3 carcinomas exhibited agreement between AR status and HER-2/neu status (AR-positive and HER-2/neu-positive, 30.5%; AR-negative and HER-2/neu-negative, 42.5%).

Conclusions: Androgen receptors are commonly expressed in DCIS and in invasive breast carcinoma. A significant number of poorly differentiated carcinomas are ER-negative and PR-negative but AR-positive. Immunohistochemical examination of AR would be desirable because it would provide additional information about steroid receptors in breast carcinomas.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma / chemistry*
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / chemistry*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology
  • Female
  • Genes, erbB-2
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, Androgen / analysis*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Receptors, Progesterone / analysis


  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone