Telomeres are nucleoprotein complexes located at the extreme ends of eukaryotic chromosomes and protect chromosomal ends from degradation and recombination. Dysfunctional telomeres contribute to genomic instability, promote tumorigenesis, and, in breast cancer, have been associated with increased cancer risk and poor prognosis. Short telomere lengths have been previously associated with triple-negative and human epidermal growth factor receptor (Her2)--positive ductal carcinomas. However, these investigations have not specifically assessed invasive lobular carcinomas (ILCs), which accounts for 5% to 15% of all invasive breast cancers. Here, we evaluate telomere lengths within 48 primary ILCs with complete characterization of estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and Her2 status, including 32 luminal/Her2- (ER+/PR+/Her2-), 8 luminal/Her2+ (ER+/PR+/Her2+), 3 Her2+ (ER-/PR-/Her2+), and 5 triple-negative (ER-/PR-/Her2-) carcinomas. A telomere-specific fluorescence in situ hybridization assay, which provides single-cell telomere length resolution, was used to evaluate telomere lengths and compare with standard clinicopathological markers. In contrast to breast ductal carcinoma, in which more than 85% of cases display abnormally short telomeres, approximately half (52%) of the ILCs displayed either normal or long telomeres. Short telomere length was associated with older patient age. Interestingly, 3 cases (6%) displayed a unique telomere pattern consisting of 1 or 2 bright telomere spots among the normal telomere signals within each individual cancer cell, a phenotype that has not been previously described. Additional studies are needed to further evaluate the significance of the unique bright telomere spot phenotype and the potential utility of telomere length as a prognostic marker in ILC.
Keywords: Breast carcinoma; Genomic instability; Invasive lobular carcinoma; Telomere shortening; Telomeres.
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