'Revertant' DCIS in human axillary breast carcinoma metastases

J Pathol. 1997 Oct;183(2):188-94. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9896(199710)183:2<188::AID-PATH898>3.0.CO;2-7.


Recent experimental evidence obtained in Scid mice has suggested that the metastatic process is in large part epigenetically regulated and undergoes partial reversion once the metastatic process is completed: the metastatic colonies become more engaged in the process of growing in situ than actively metastasizing. Based on this experimental evidence, examples were sought of metastatic human cancers where similar reversion to an in situ growth state was occurring. Review of 200 cases of metastatic human breast cancer revealed a 21 per cent incidence of reversion to a ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) growth pattern within axillary nodal metastases. The revertant DCIS areas were characterized by an intact and circumferential basement membrane, as demonstrated by extracellular laminin and type IV collagen immunoreactivity. These revertant DCIS areas could be distinguished from primary DCIS, however, by the absence of surrounding myoepithelial cells in the former, identified in the latter by their positive maspin, S-100, and smooth muscle actin immunoreactivity. The pattern of revertant DCIS, poorly differentiated (comedo) (13 per cent), intermediate (non-comedo) (6 per cent), or well-differentiated (non-comedo) (2%), exhibited complete 100 per cent concordance with the primary DCIS pattern. The concordance of histological patterns held true for even the subtypes of DCIS determined by architectural pattern, such as the micropapillary or cribriform subtypes. Nuclear size by digital image analysis and Her-2/neu, p53, and Ki-67 status in the revertant DCIS also exhibited complete concordance with the primary DCIS counterparts. Cases exhibiting a revertant DCIS pattern tended to be ER-negative/EGFR-positive and exhibited significant nodal involvement (mean number, 9; mean area, 90 per cent) compared with cases lacking a revertant pattern (mean number, 4; mean area, 15 per cent) (P < 0.01) These findings suggest that reversion of the metastatic phenotype may also be occurring within autochthonous human metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Axilla
  • Basement Membrane / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma in Situ / pathology
  • Carcinoma in Situ / secondary*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / secondary*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology*


  • Ki-67 Antigen