Phenotypic alterations in ductal carcinoma in situ-associated myoepithelial cells: biologic and diagnostic implications

Am J Surg Pathol. 2009 Feb;33(2):227-32. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e318180431d.


Recent molecular studies have indicated that ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)-associated myoepithelial cells (MECs) show differences from MECs in normal breast tissue. Such alterations may influence the progression of DCIS to invasive cancer. The purpose of this study was to investigate further phenotypic alterations in DCIS-associated MECs. Paraffin sections of 101 cases of DCIS (56 without and 45 with associated invasive carcinoma) were immunostained for 7 MEC markers: smooth muscle actin, smooth muscle myosin heavy chain (SMMHC), calponin, p63, cytokeratin (CK) 5/6, CD10, and p75. In each case, the distribution and intensity of staining for each marker in DCIS-associated MECs was compared with that in MECs surrounding normal ductal-lobular structures on the same slide. In 85 cases (84.2%), DCIS-associated MECs showed decreased expression of one or more MEC markers when compared with normal MECs. The proportion of cases that showed reduced expression was 76.5% for SMMHC, 34.0% for CD10, 30.2% for CK5/6, 17.4% for calponin, 12.6% for p63, 4.2% for p75, and 1% for smooth muscle actin. Reduced MEC expression of SMMHC was significantly more frequent in high grade than in non-high-grade DCIS (84.8% vs. 61.5% of cases, P=0.01). We conclude that DCIS-associated MECs show immunophenotypic differences from MECs surrounding normal mammary ductal-lobular structures. The biologic significance of this remains to be determined. However, these results indicate that the sensitivity of some MEC markers is lower in DCIS-associated MECs than in normal MECs. This observation should be taken into consideration when selecting MEC markers to help distinguish in situ from invasive breast carcinomas.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Muscle Cells / metabolism
  • Muscle Cells / pathology*
  • Phenotype


  • Biomarkers, Tumor