Introduction: Aberrant expression of E-cadherin has been associated with the development of metastases in patients with breast cancer. Even though the expression of E-cadherin has been studied in primary breast tumors, little is known about its expression at the distant metastatic sites. We investigate the relationship between E-cadherin expression in primary breast carcinoma and their distant, non-nodal metastases.
Methods: Immunohistochemical analysis of E-cadherin was performed in tissues from 30 patients with primary invasive breast carcinoma and their distant metastases. E-cadherin expression was evaluated as normal or aberrant (decreased when compared with normal internal positive controls, or absent).
Results: Twenty-two (73%) invasive carcinomas were ductal, and eight (27%) were lobular. Of the primary invasive ductal carcinomas, 55% (12/22) had normal E-cadherin expression and 45% (10/22) had aberrant expression. All of the metastases expressed E-cadherin with the same intensity as (12 tumors) or with stronger intensity than (10 tumors) the corresponding primaries. Of the invasive lobular carcinomas, one of eight (12%) primary carcinomas and none of the metastases expressed E-cadherin in the cell membranes, but they accumulated the protein in the cytoplasm.
Conclusion: Aberrant E-cadherin expression is frequent in invasive ductal carcinomas that progress to develop distant metastases. Distant metastases consistently express E-cadherin, often more strongly than the primary tumor. Invasive lobular carcinomas have a different pattern of E-cadherin expression, suggesting a different role for E-cadherin in this form of breast carcinoma.