Methylation profiling of benign and malignant breast lesions and its application to cytopathology

Mod Pathol. 2003 Nov;16(11):1095-101. doi: 10.1097/01.MP.0000095782.79895.E2.


Methylation of tumor suppressor genes has been implicated in breast cancer development. However, methylation profiles of different breast lesions, subtypes of carcinoma in particular, have not been examined in detail. In this study, we use methylation-specific PCR (MSP) to generate gene methylation profiles of different breast lesions and to test the clinical utility of such profiles. We examined the methylation status of three genes, RARbeta2, RASSF1A, and cyclin D2, on 102 samples of breast tissue, from benign (n = 36), to in situ carcinoma (n = 21), to invasive carcinoma (n = 45). We found that almost all cases of invasive carcinoma (96%) contained at least one methylated gene from our panel, whereas gene methylation was less common among benign lesions (42%) and in situ carcinoma (76%). Of the three genes, cyclin D2 methylation was most specific for malignancy because only 1 of 35 benign cases was methylated at this gene (1 case was not informative). The major histologic subtypes of invasive carcinoma show similar methylation profiles in the genes examined. We next performed MSP analysis on archival breast fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy samples and corresponding surgical biopsy specimens and found a high concordance between the two types of specimens. We then analyzed 17 breast FNA biopsy samples with an indeterminate diagnosis. In this setting, MSP had a high specificity (100%) and modest sensitivity (67%) for identifying malignancy.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Breast Diseases / genetics*
  • Breast Diseases / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma in Situ / genetics
  • Carcinoma in Situ / pathology
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics