Background: Suppressors of cytokine signaling (SOCS) are important negative feedback regulators of the JAK/STAT signaling pathway, and have been recently investigated for their role in the development of different cancers. In this study, we examined the expression of SOCS1-7 genes in normal and breast cancer tissue and correlated this with several clinico-pathological and prognostic factors.
Methods: SOCS1-7 mRNA extraction and reverse transcription were performed on fresh frozen breast cancer tissue samples (n = 127) and normal background breast tissue (n = 31). Transcript levels of expression were determined using real-time PCR and analyzed against TNM stage, tumour grade and clinical outcome over a 10 year follow-up period.
Results: SOCS1,4,5,6 and 7 expression decreased with increased TNM stage (TNM1 vs. TNM3 p = 0.039, TNM1 vs. TNM4 p = 0.016, TNM2 vs. TNM4 p = 0.025, TNM1 vs. TNM3 p = 0.012, and TNM1 vs. TNM3 p = 0.044 respectively). SOCS2 and 3 expression decreased with increased Nottingham Prognostic Index (NPI) (NPI1 vs. NPI3 p = 0.033, and NPI2 vs. NPI3 p = 0.041 respectively). SOCS7 expression decreased with higher tumour grade (Grade 3 vs. Grade 2 p = 0.037). After a median follow up period of 10 years, we found higher levels of SOCS1,2 and 7 expression among those patients who remained disease-free compared to those who developed local recurrence (p = 0.0073, p = 0.021, and p = 0.039 respectively). Similarly, we found higher levels of SOCS 2,4, and 7 expression in those who remained disease-free compared to those who developed distant recurrence (p = 0.022, p = 0.024, and p = 0.033 respectively). Patients who remained disease-free had higher levels of SOCS1 and 2 expression compared to those who died from breast cancer (p = 0.02 and p = 0.033 respectively). The disease free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) curves showed that higher levels of SOCS1, 3 and 7 were significant predictors of higher DFS (p = 0.015, p = 0.024 and 0.03 respectively) and OS (p = 0.005, p = 0.013 and p = 0.035 respectively). Higher levels of SOCS 4 were significant in predicting better OS (p = 0.007) but not DFS. Immunohistochemical staining of representative samples showed a correlation between SOCS1, 3, 7 protein staining and the SOCS1, 3, 7 mRNA expression.
Conclusion: Higher mRNA expression levels of SOCS1, 3, 4 and 7 are significantly associated with earlier tumour stage and better clinical outcome in human breast cancer.