Background: Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that synthesises telomeres after cell division and maintains chromosomal length and stability thus leading to cellular immortalisation. The hTERT (human telomerase reverse transcriptase) subunit seems to be the rate-limiting determinant of telomerase and knowledge of factors controlling hTERT transcription may be useful in therapeutic strategies. The hTERT promoter contains binding sites for c-Myc and there is some experimental and in vitro evidence that c-Myc may increase hTERT expression. We previously reported no correlation between c-Myc mRNA expression and hTERT mRNA or telomerase activity in human breast cancer. This study aims to examine the correlation between hTERT expression as determined by immunohistochemistry and c-Myc expression, lymph node status, and tumour size and grade in human breast cancer.
Materials and methods: The immunohistochemical expression of hTERT and c-Myc was investigated in 38 malignant breast tumours. The expression of hTERT was then correlated with the lymph node status, c-Myc expression and other clinicopathological parameters of the tumours.
Results: hTERT expression was positive in 27 (71%) of the 38 tumours. 15 (79%) of 19 node positive tumours were hTERT positive compared with 11 (63%) of 19 node negative tumours. The expression was higher in node positive tumours but this failed to reach statistical significance (p = 0.388). There was no significant association with tumour size, tumour grade or c-Myc expression. However, hTERT expression correlated positively with patients' age (correlation coefficient = 0.415, p = 0.0097).
Conclusion: hTERT protein expression is independent of lymph node status, tumour size and grade and c-Myc protein expression in human breast cancer.