Down-regulated expression of cytokeratin 18 promotes progression of human breast cancer.
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20 years as structural marker proteins specific for epithelial cells. Recent expression profiling analyses indicate, however, that CK down-regulation may occur in breast cancer. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Here we evaluated the expression pattern of CK18 by immunohistochemical analysis of primary breast carcinomas (n = 1458) spotted on a high-density tissue microarray. The findings were correlated to histopathological risk factors and clinical outcome. RESULTS: Down-regulation of CK18 (as compared to normal breast tissue) was observed in 25.4% of the tumors with a lower rate in lobular carcinomas (17.0%) than in ductal carcinomas (25.4%) or other histological entities (32.5%). CK down-regulation was significantly correlated to advanced tumor stage and high grade but not to axillary lymph node status. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis revealed CK18 as a prognostic indicator of overall survival (P = 0.015) and cancer-specific survival (P = 0.005). CONCLUSIONS: Down-regulation of the luminal CK18 is not rare and a clinically relevant event in breast cancer. This finding has important implications for the use of CK18 as epithelial tumor marker. The correlations with clinical follow-up suggest that CK18 might suppress tumor progression.