Background: It has been a challenge to determine breast cancer clonality accurately. The aim of the present study was to assess methods using formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue to differentiate new primary tumours from true recurrences that are associated with poorer prognoses and often require more aggressive treatment.
Methods: We investigated the novel method of analysing gene alterations of mitochondrial DNA D-loop region (GAMDDL) and compared it with the conventional method of analysing the X-chromosome-linked human androgen receptor (HUMARA). The FFPE sections of primary and secondary breast cancers, the non-neoplastic mammary gland, and lymph nodes were examined.
Results: Informative rates for HUMARA, GAMDDL, and combined analyses were 42.1%, 76.9%, and 89.5%, respectively. All of the 10 contralateral breast cancers were determined to be non-clonal. In contrast, 3 out of 8 (37.5%) of the ipsilateral secondary tumours shared a clonal origin with the primary tumour and were classified as true recurrences, whereas 4 out of 8 (50%) were classified as new primary tumours.
Conclusion: GAMDDL analysis represents a novel and useful molecular method for examining the precise cell lineages of primary and secondary tumours, and was more accurate than HUMARA in determining clonality.