Considerable heterogeneity of morphology and disease outcome exists within breast cancers (BC), which likely reflects variable molecular pathogeneses within this broad clinical group.
Aim: To evaluate the underlying genomic alterations associated with familial, early-onset BC (EOBC) phenotypes, in order to improve the management of this disease.
Methods: Using hierarchical clustering of morphological and immunophenotypical parameters, 116 EOBC were stratified into six groups. Conventional and array-based comparative genomic hybridisation was used to analyse the genomic alterations.
Results: Specific areas of genomic imbalance were associated with individual phenotypes. The largest phenotypical group was high grade, oestrogen receptor and HER-2 negative. This group contained the majority of BRCA1 germline mutation-associated tumours and commonly showed loss of chromosomal regions 5cent-5q13, 5q14-22 and 4q28-32. High mitotic rate, an important indicator of tumour cell proliferation and poor prognosis, was associated with gain of 19p, mapped within 7 Mb of the telomere. This region contains the candidate oncogene CDC34, the protein product of which is involved in ubiquitin-mediated degradation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, p27Kip1.
Conclusion: Phenotype-based analysis can be used to determine the genetic changes important in subtypes of BC. Further, the different morphological phenotypes could act as a cost-effective surrogate for genotypical stratification to facilitate optimal management of this disease.