Background: The shift towards an earlier diagnosis of breast cancer (BC) highlights the need for biomarkers that would identify patients at risk for relapse and metastatic spread and indicate the potential value of additional treatment strategies. Osteopontin (OPN) is a matricellular protein that has been suggested to be a potential biomarker in BC. In the present study, we used archived BC patient samples to assess the clinical utility of OPN.
Methods: Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor tissue samples from 975 patients were collected from two large phase III randomized adjuvant chemotherapy trials (HE10/97 and HE10/00) that included patients with high risk BC. All tissue samples were assessed for ER, PgR, Ki67 and HER2 protein expression. OPN protein and mRNA expression was evaluated using immunohistochemistry and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, respectively.
Results: OPN mRNA expression data were available for 814 patients, whereas OPN protein expression data were available for 546 patients. The majority of patients were ER/PgR-positive (78.3%), HER2-negative (76.5%) and Ki67-positive (55.2%) and had received adjuvant radiation therapy (76.8%) and hormonal therapy (81.1%). OPN mRNA expression was significantly associated with age (60.9% in high OPN tumors vs. 54.1% in low OPN tumors, p = 0.047), ER/PgR-negative status (25.7 vs. 17.2%, p = 0.004) and BC subtypes (p = 0.021). In addition, high OPN mRNA expression was significantly associated with reduced DFS (HR 1.26, 95% CI 1.00-1.59, Wald's p = 0.050) and OS (HR 1.37, 95% CI 1.05-1.78, p = 0.019), while it retained its prognostic significance for both DFS (HR 1.39, 95% CI 1.10-1.77, p = 0.007) and OS (HR 1.54, 95% CI 1.61-2.05, p = 0.003) in the multivariate analysis.
Conclusions: We showed that high OPN mRNA expression is associated with decreased DFS and OS in a large cohort of BC patients treated with adjuvant chemotherapy in a clinical trial setting. Our results suggest that OPN may serve as a prognostic factor and a potential target for therapy. Trial registration Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry; HE10/97 ACTRN12611000506998; HE10/00 ACTRN12609001036202.
Keywords: Breast cancer; IHC; Osteopontin; Prognostic value; Survival; mRNA; qRT-PCR.