Axl receptor tyrosine kinase expression in breast cancer
D'Alfonso TM., Hannah J., Chen Z., Liu Y., Zhou P., Shin SJ.
Aims: Triple-negative breast cancer comprises a clinically aggressive group of invasive carcinomas. We examined a published gene expression screen of a panel of breast cancer cell lines to identify a potential triple-negative breast cancer-specific gene signature, and attempted to verify our findings by performing immunohistochemical analysis on tissue microarrays containing a large cohort of invasive breast carcinomas. Methods: The microarray dataset for a panel of human breast cancer cell lines was interrogated for triple-negative breast cancer-specific genes. Membranous immunohistochemical expression of the protein product of the AXL gene was assessed semiquantitatively in 569 invasive breast carcinomas grouped according to molecular subgroup by immunohistochemistry. Results: AXL was significantly upregulated in triplenegative/basal B cell lines compared with luminal or basal A cell lines. No significant difference was observed in the level of immunohistochemical expression of Axl protein between triple-negative breast cancers and other molecular subgroups (p=0.257). Axl expression was significantly associated with lymphovascular invasion (LVI) in all subgroups combined (p=0.033), and within the luminal A (p=0.002) and triple-negative breast cancer subgroups (p=0.026). Conclusions: Despite preferential upregulation of AXL in triple-negative/basal B cell lines, analysis of Axl protein expression in a large series of patients' breast tumours revealed no association between Axl expression and triple-negative breast cancer or other subtype. The association of Axl expression with LVI supports previous work that implicates Axl as a promoter of invasiveness in breast cancer cell lines. Further studies are necessary to explore whether Axl expression of individual breast cancer tumours can be clinically useful.