Background: The c-met protooncogene encodes the met protein, the receptor for scatter factor/hepatocyte growth factor, a growth factor that modulates the motility and stable interaction of the epithelial cells. This study assesses the expression of met receptor in breast carcinoma and its prognostic value with respect to survival.
Methods: Immunofluorescence was used to evaluate 91 archival breast carcinoma specimens using a polyclonal antibody to the cytoplasmic domain of the receptor. Cases were scored by two pathologists on a percentage basis and then converted to binary scores (positive or negative) on the basis of a bimodal distribution.
Results: Strong expression of met was found in 20 invasive ductal breast tumor specimens (22%). The 5-year survival of patients whose tumors showed decreased met expression was 89%, in contrast to a 52% 5-year survival rate in patients whose tumors expressed met (P = 0.008). This trend also was observed in patients without lymph node metastases at presentation, in whom met negative patients had a 95% 5-year survival compared with only 62% for met positive patients (P = 0.006) Multivariate analysis using the Cox proportional hazards model showed met expression to be an independent predictor of survival, with a predictive value nearly equivalent to that associated with lymph node status.
Conclusions: The authors conclude that expression of met in patients with invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast is a strong, independent predictor of decreased survival and may be a useful prognostic marker with which to identify a subset of patients with more aggressive disease.