Background: SET domain containing protein 2 (SETD2) is a histone methyltransferase that is involved in transcriptional elongation. There is evidence that SETD2 interacts with p53 and selectively regulates its downstream genes. Therefore, it could be implicated in the process of carcinogenesis. Furthermore, this gene is located on the short arm of chromosome 3p and we previously demonstrated that the 3p21.31 region of chromosome 3 was associated with permanent growth arrest of breast cancer cells. This region includes closely related genes namely: MYL3, CCDC12, KIF9, KLHL18 and SETD2. Based on the biological function of these genes, SETD2 is the most likely gene to play a tumour suppressor role and explain our previous findings. Our objective was to determine, using quantitative PCR, whether the mRNA expression levels of SETD2 were consistent with a tumour suppressive function in breast cancer. This is the first study in the literature to examine the direct relationship between SETD2 and breast cancer.
Methods: A total of 153 samples were analysed. The levels of transcription of SETD2 were determined using quantitative PCR and normalized against (CK19). Transcript levels within breast cancer specimens were compared to normal background tissues and analyzed against conventional pathological parameters and clinical outcome over a 10 year follow-up period.
Results: The levels of SETD2 mRNA were significantly lower in malignant samples (p = 0.0345) and decreased with increasing tumour stage. SETD2 expression levels were significantly lower in samples from patients who developed metastasis, local recurrence, or died of breast cancer when compared to those who were disease free for > 10 years (p = 0.041).
Conclusion: This study demonstrates a compelling trend for SETD2 transcription levels to be lower in cancerous tissues and in patients who developed progressive disease. These findings are consistent with a possible tumour suppressor function of this gene in breast cancer.