Immunohistochemical expression of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 in invasive breast cancers and ductal carcinoma in situ: implications for clinicopathology and patient outcome

Breast Cancer Res. 2005;7(1):R119-29. doi: 10.1186/bcr963. Epub 2004 Nov 23.


Introduction: Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) differentially modulates breast epithelial cell growth through insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-dependent and IGF-independent pathways and is a direct (IGF-independent) growth inhibitor as well as a mitogen that potentiates EGF (epidermal growth factor) and interacts with HER-2. Previously, high IGFBP-3 levels in breast cancers have been determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunoradiometric assay methods. In vitro, IGFBP-3's mechanisms of action may involve cell membrane binding and nuclear translocation. To evaluate tumour-specific IGFBP-3 expression and its subcellular localisation, this study examined immunohistochemical IGFBP-3 expression in a series of invasive ductal breast cancers (IDCs) with synchronous ductal carcinomas in situ (DCIS) in relation to clinicopathological variables and patient outcome.

Methods: Immunohistochemical expression of IGFBP-3 was evaluated with the sheep polyclonal antiserum (developed in house) with staining performed as described previously.

Results: IGFBP-3 was evaluable in 101 patients with a variable pattern of cytoplasmic expression (positivity of 1+/2+ score) in 85% of invasive and 90% of DCIS components. Strong (2+) IGFBP-3 expression was evident in 32 IDCs and 40 cases of DCIS. A minority of invasive tumours (15%) and DCIS (10%) lacked IGFBP-3 expression. Nuclear IGFBP-3 expression was not detectable in either invasive cancers or DCIS, with a consistent similarity in IGFBP-3 immunoreactivity in IDCs and DCIS. Positive IGFBP-3 expression showed a possible trend in association with increased proliferation (P = 0.096), oestrogen receptor (ER) negativity (P = 0.06) and HER-2 overexpression (P = 0.065) in invasive tumours and a strong association with ER negativity (P = 0.037) in DCIS. Although IGFBP-3 expression was not an independent prognosticator, IGFBP-3-positive breast cancers may have shorter disease-free and overall survivals, although these did not reach statistical significance.

Conclusions: Increased breast epithelial IGFBP-3 expression is a feature of tumorigenesis with cytoplasmic immunoreactivity in the absence of significant nuclear localisation in IDCs and DCIS. There are trends between high levels of IGFBP-3 and poor prognostic features, suggesting that IGFBP-3 is a potential mitogen. IGFBP-3 is not an independent prognosticator for overall survival or disease-free survival, to reflect its dual effects on breast cancer growth regulated by complex pathways in vivo that may relate to its interactions with other growth factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / biosynthesis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitogens
  • Prognosis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Mitogens