Background: In the present study we analyze, in patients with breast cancer, the tumor expression of androgen receptors (AR), its relationship with clinicopathological characteristics and with the expression of several matrix metalloproteases (MMPs) and their inhibitors (TIMPs), as well as with prognosis.
Methods: An immunohistochemical study was performed using tissue microarrays and specific antibodies against AR, MMPs -1, -2, -7, -9, -11, -13, -14, and TIMPs -1, -2 and -3. More than 2,800 determinations on tumor specimens from 111 patients with primary invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast (52 with axillary lymph node metastases and 59 without them) and controls were performed. Staining results were categorized using a score based on the intensity of the staining and a specific software program calculated the percentage of immunostained cells automatically.
Results: A total of 83 cases (74.8%) showed a positive immunostaining for AR, but with a wide variation in the staining score values. There were no significant associations between the total immunostaining scores for AR and any clinicopathological parameters. However, score values for MMP-1, -7 and -13, were significantly higher in AR-positive tumors than in AR-negative tumors. Likewise, when we considered the cellular type expressing each factor, we found that AR-positive tumors had a higher percentage of cases positive for MMP-1, -7, -11, and TIMP-2 in their malignant cells, as well as for MMP-1 in intratumoral fibroblasts. On the other hand, multivariate analysis demonstrated that patients with AR-positive tumors have a significant longer overall survival than those with AR-negative breast carcinomas (p = 0.03).
Conclusion: Our results confirm that AR are commonly expressed in breast cancer, and are correlated with the expression of some MMPs and TIMP-2. Although we found a specific value of AR expression to be a prognostic indicator in breast cancer, the functional role of AR in these neoplasms is still unclear and further data are needed in order to clarify their biological signification in breast cancer.