Differential gene expression in primary breast tumors associated with lymph node metastasis

Int J Breast Cancer. 2011;2011:142763. doi: 10.4061/2011/142763. Epub 2011 May 15.


Lymph node status remains one of the most useful prognostic indicators in breast cancer; however, current methods to assess nodal status disrupt the lymphatic system and may lead to secondary complications. Identification of molecular signatures discriminating lymph node-positive from lymph node-negative primary tumors would allow for stratification of patients requiring surgical assesment of lymph nodes. Primary breast tumors from women with negative (n = 41) and positive (n = 35) lymph node status matched for possible confounding factors were subjected to laser microdissection and gene expression data generated. Although ANOVA analysis (P < .001, fold-change >1.5) revealed 13 differentially expressed genes, hierarchical clustering classified 90% of node-negative but only 66% of node-positive tumors correctly. The inability to derive molecular profiles of metastasis in primary tumors may reflect tumor heterogeneity, paucity of cells within the primary tumor with metastatic potential, influence of the microenvironment, or inherited host susceptibility to metastasis.