Vitamin D receptor, Retinoid X receptor and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ are overexpressed in BRCA1 mutated breast cancer and predict prognosis

J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2017 Apr 20;36(1):57. doi: 10.1186/s13046-017-0517-1.


Background: BRCA1 mutated breast cancers are commonly diagnosed as negative for classical hormone receptors i.e. estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and/or Her2. Due to these common targets being absent the application of anti-endocrine therapies is rather limited and a certain focus has been set on discovering alternative target molecules. We recently highlighted thyroid hormone receptors (TRs) to predict prognosis in breast cancer patients that had been diagnosed a BRCA1 germline mutation. Vitamin D Receptor (VDR), Retinoid X Receptor (RXR) and Peroxisome Proliferator-activated Receptor γ (PPARγ) are known to interact with TRs by forming functional heterodimers. Whether VDR, RXR or PPARγ are expressed in BRCA1 mutated breast cancer or may even be present in case of triple negativity is not known. Hence the current study aimed to investigate VDR, RXR and PPARγ in BRCA1 mut breast cancer and to test whether any of the three may be associated with clinico-pathological criteria including overall survival.

Methods: This study analyzed VDR, RXR and PPARγ by immunohistochemistry in BRCA1 associated (n = 38) and sporadic breast cancer (n = 79). Receptors were quantified by applying an established scoring system (IR-score) and were tested for association with clinico-pathological variables.

Results: VDR, RXR and PPARγ were detected in over 90% of triple negative BRCA1 mut breast cancer and were significantly (VDR: p < 0.001, RXR: p = 0.010, PPARγ: p < 0.001) overexpressed in BRCA1 mutated as compared to sporadic cancer cases. VDR and RXR positivity predicted prolonged overall survival only in BRCA1 mutated cases while such association was not observed in sporadic breast cancer.

Conclusions: In conclusion, this is the first study to describe VDR, RXR and PPARγ in BRCA1 mutated breast cancer. Based on the data presented here these receptors may be hypothesized to potentially evolve as interesting markers or even targets in hereditary breast cancer. However, independent studies are indispensable thus to confirm this hypothesis.

Keywords: BRCA1; Hereditary breast cancer; Peroxisome-proliferator activated Receptor γ (PPARγ); Retinoid X Receptor (RXR); Survival; Vitamin D Receptor (VDR).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • BRCA1 Protein / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism*
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism*
  • Retinoid X Receptors / metabolism*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • BRCA1 Protein
  • BRCA1 protein, human
  • PPAR gamma
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • VDR protein, human