Introduction: Heparan sulphate proteoglycan syndecan-1 modulates cell proliferation, adhesion, migration and angiogenesis. It is a coreceptor for the hepatocyte growth factor receptor c-met, and its coexpression with E-cadherin is synchronously regulated during epithelial-mesenchymal transition. In breast cancer, changes in the expression of syndecan-1, E-cadherin and c-met correlate with poor prognosis. In this study we evaluated whether coexpression of these functionally linked prognostic markers constitutes an expression signature in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of the breast that may promote cell proliferation and (lymph)angiogenesis.
Methods: Expression of syndecan-1, E-cadherin and c-met was detected immunohistochemically using a tissue microarray in tumour specimens from 200 DCIS patients. Results were correlated with the expression patterns of angiogenic and lymphangiogenic markers. Coexpression of the three prognostic markers was evaluated in human breast cancer cells by confocal immunofluorescence microscopy and RT-PCR.
Results: Coexpression and membrane colocalization of the three markers was confirmed in MCF-7 cells. E-cadherin expression decreased, and c-met expression increased progressively in more aggressive cell lines. Tissue microarray analysis revealed strong positive staining of tumour cells for syndecan-1 in 72%, E-cadherin in 67.8% and c-met in 48.6% of DCIS. E-cadherin expression was significantly associated with c-met and syndecan-1. Expression of c-met and syndecan-1 was significantly more frequent in the subgroup of patients with pure DCIS than in those with DCIS and a coexisting invasive carcinoma. Levels of c-met and syndecan-1 expression were associated with HER2 expression. Expression of c-met significantly correlated with expression of endothelin A and B receptors, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A and fibroblast growth factor receptor-1, whereas E-cadherin expression correlated significantly with endothelin A receptor, VEGF-A and VEGF-C staining.
Conclusion: Syndecan-1, E-cadherin and c-met constitute a marker signature associated with angiogenic and lymphangiogenic factors in DCIS. This coexpression may reflect a state of parallel activation of different signal transduction pathways, promoting tumour cell proliferation and angiogenesis. Our findings have implications for future therapeutic approaches in terms of a multiple target approach, which may be useful early in breast cancer progression.