Inflammatory Breast Ca & Angiogenesis

Molecular and Cellular Pathology

Inflammatory breast cancer shows angiogenesis with high endothelial proliferation rate and strong E-cadherin expression

C G Colpaert1, P B Vermeulen1, I Benoy2, A Soubry3, F Van Roy3, P van Beest1, G Goovaerts2, L Y Dirix2, P Van Dam2, S B Fox4, A L Harris4 and E A Van Marck1

1Department of Pathology, University Hospital Antwerp, University of Antwerp, B-2650 Edegem, Belgium

2Angiogenesis Group, AZ Sint Augustinus, B-2610 Antwerp, Belgium

3Department for Molecular Biomedical Research, Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), Ghent University, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

4Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford OX39DS, UK

Correspondence to: Dr C Colpaert, Department of Pathology, University Hospital Antwerp, Wilrijkstraat 10, B-2650 Edegem, Belgium. E-mail: Cecile.Colpaert@uza.be www.bjcancer.com

Abstract

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most aggressive form of breast cancer. Improved understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the differences between IBC and non-IBC might provide novel therapeutic targets.

We studied 35 consecutive patients with IBC, biopsied prior to the initiation of chemotherapy. Angiogenesis was evaluated by Chalkley counting and by assessment of endothelial cell proliferation (ECP) and vessel maturity. The presence of fibrin, expression of the hypoxia marker carbonic anhydrase IX (CA IX) and epithelialcadherin (E-cadherin) expression were immunohistochemically detected.

The same parameters were obtained in a group of 104 non-IBC patients. Vascular density, assessed by Chalkley counting (P<0.0001), and ECP (P=0.01) were significantly higher in IBC than in non-IBC. Abundant stromal fibrin deposition was observed in 26% of IBC and in only 8% of non-IBC (P=0.02). Expression of CA IX was significantly less frequent in IBC than in non-IBC with early metastasis (P=0.047).

There was a significant positive correlation between the expression of CA IX and ECP in IBC (r=0.4, P=0.03), implying that the angiogenesis is partly hypoxia driven. However, the higher ECP in IBC and the less frequent expression of CA IX in IBC vs non-IBC points at a role for other factors than hypoxia in stimulating angiogenesis.

Strong, homogeneous E-cadherin expression was found at cell-cell contacts in all but two IBC cases, both in lymphovascular tumour emboli and in infiltrating tumour cells, challenging our current understanding of the metastatic process.

Both the intense angiogenesis and the strong E-cadherin expression may contribute to the highly metastatic phenotype of IBC.

British Journal of Cancer (2003) 88, 718-725.


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