bcl-2 and apoptosis in lymph node positive breast carcinoma

Melora D. Berardo, Richard M. Elledge, Carl De Moor, Gary M. Clark, C. Kent Osborne, D. Craig Allred

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND. Because bcl-2 can block apoptosis in vitro, and because lower levels of apoptosis might lead to malignant cell accumulation and therefore to a more aggressive clinical course, the authors tested the hypothesis that high bcl-2 and low apoptosis would result in a worse prognosis for breast carcinoma patients. METHODS. Primary breast tumor specimens from 979 patients with positive axillary lymph nodes were evaluated for bcl-2 protein expression by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Apoptosis was evaluated by using IHC to detect 3' DNA fragments end-labeled with biotinylated uridine. Results were analyzed with respect to patient characteristics, prognostic factors, and clinical outcome. Median follow-up was 61 months. RESULTS. High bcl-2 expression was significantly associated with a number of favorable prognostic factors, including a lower number of positive lymph nodes, absence of p53 protein accumulation, estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) positivity, diploidy, and a lower proliferative rate. However, although bcl-2 is generally considered a negative regulator of apoptosis, in these tumors there was no significant association between bcl-2 and apoptosis. Patients with high bcl-2 expression had significantly improved disease free survival (DFS) (P < 0.0001) and overall survival (OS) (P < 0.0001). In a multivariate analysis, bcl-2 expression was independently associated with better DFS (P = 0.004). Regarding apoptosis, the presence of ≤1% apoptotic cells was significantly associated with a greater number of positive lymph nodes, p53 protein expression, ER and PR negativity, aneuploidy, and a higher proliferation rate, although there was no significant association with a worse clinical outcome when this dichotomized cutoff was used. CONCLUSIONS. For lymph node positive breast carcinoma patients, high bcl-2 expression is associated with a number of good prognostic factors and is independently associated with better clinical outcome. Apoptosis is associated with a number of poor prognostic factors but not with a significantly worse outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1296-1302
Number of pages7
JournalCancer
Volume82
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 1998

Keywords

  • Apoptosis
  • Bcl-2
  • Breast carcinoma
  • Prognosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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