Triple-negative breast cancer comprises 10% to 15% of newly diagnosed breast cancer and lacks expression of the estrogen, progesterone, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2/neu receptors. Many such tumors are basal like, a molecular intrinsic subtype of breast cancer associated with poor clinical outcomes. Patients with early-stage basal-like triple-negative breast cancer are at a high risk for relapse and may, therefore, benefit from novel therapies, including immunotherapy. MUC1 is a tumor antigen expressed on adenocarcinomas and represents an ideal target for MUC1-based vaccination. We evaluated 52 cases of early-stage basal-like triple-negative breast cancer for MUC1 expression by immunohistochemistry. The intensity of staining was graded according to the intensity (negative , positive , or strongly positive ) and percentage (0%-100%) of tumor cells staining for MUC1. An overall score of 0 to 2.0 was calculated for each case by multiplying the intensity of staining by the percentage of tumor cells staining positively. Four staining patterns for MUC1 were identified: apical, cytoplasmic, membranous, and combination. Of the 52 cases of basal-like triple-negative breast cancers, 49 (94%) were positive for MUC1 expression. The mean score was 0.90 (range, 0-1.9). Cases were evenly distributed over this range, where most (67%) exhibited moderate to strong MUC1 expression (score, 0.5-1.90), 27% demonstrated weak MUC1 expression, and 6% lacked MUC1 expression. There was a significant difference in MUC1 score and percent MUC1+ cells in favor of the combination pattern. This study indicates that a large proportion of early-stage basal-like triple-negative breast cancer expresses MUC1 and provides a rationale for MUC1-based immunotherapy in this high-risk patient cohort.
Keywords: Basal-like; Mucin; Triple-negative breast cancer.
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