Background: IBC (Inflammatory Breast cancer) is a rare form of breast cancer with a particular phenotype. New molecular targets are needed to improve the treatment of this rapidly fatal disease. Given the role of NF-kappaB-related genes in cell proliferation, invasiveness, angiogenesis and inflammation, we postulated that they might be deregulated in IBC.
Methods: We measured the mRNA expression levels of 60 NF-kappaB-related genes by using real-time quantitative RT-PCR in a well-defined series of 35 IBCs, by comparison with 22 stage IIB and III non inflammatory breast cancers. Twenty-four distant metastases of breast cancer served as "poor prognosis" breast tumor controls.
Results: Thirty-five (58%) of the 60 NF-kappaB-related genes were significantly upregulated in IBC compared with non IBC. The upregulated genes were NF-kappaB genes (NFKB1, RELA, IKBKG, NFKBIB, NFKB2, REL, CHUK), apoptosis genes (MCL1L, TNFAIP3/A20, GADD45B, FASLG, MCL1S, IER3L, TNFRSF10B/TRAILR2), immune response genes (CD40, CD48, TNFSF11/RANKL, TNFRSF11A/RANK, CCL2/MCP-1, CD40LG, IL15, GBP1), proliferation genes (CCND2, CCND3, CSF1R, CSF1, SOD2), tumor-promoting genes (CXCL12, SELE, TNC, VCAM1, ICAM1, PLAU/UPA) or angiogenesis genes (PTGS2/COX2, CXCL1/GRO1). Only two of these 35 genes (PTGS2/COX2 and CXCL1/GRO1)were also upregulated in breast cancer metastases. We identified a five-gene molecular signature that matched patient outcomes, consisting of IL8 and VEGF plus three NF-kappaB-unrelated genes that we had previously identified as prognostic markers in the same series of IBC.
Conclusion: The NF-kappaB pathway appears to play a major role in IBC, possibly contributing to the unusual phenotype and aggressiveness of this form of breast cancer. Some upregulated NF-kappaB-related genes might serve as novel therapeutic targets in IBC.