Cimino, A., Halushka, M., Illei, P. et al. Breast Cancer Res Treat (2010) 123: 701. doi:10.1007/s10549-009-0671-z
EpCAM (CD326) has diverse roles in cell adhesion and proliferation, and is known to be overexpressed in primary breast carcinomas (PBCs). While clinical and preclinical data suggest a role for EpCAM in metastases, the only prior study of EpCAM expression in breast cancer metastases suggested that EpCAM expression is decreased after first-line chemotherapy. This study evaluates EpCAM expression in metastatic breast carcinoma (MBC) versus matched PBC . Rapid autopsies were performed on 17 patients with widely metastatic breast cancer. Single patient tissue microarrays (TMAs) were constructed from archived PBC and post-mortem MBCs. In total, 169 spots from 17 PBCs and 895 spots from 195 MBCs were labeled for EpCAM by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Expression was scored as intensity (1–3) multiplied by percent membrane labeling (0–100%) and was subclassified as low (0–100), moderate (101–200), or high (201–300) labeling. PBCs exhibited exclusively low-moderate EpCAM labeling. EpCAM labeling was present in all metastases and was significantly increased in MBCs of 14 of 17 patients (P value range <0.05 to <0.0001, t test). In the remaining three patients, EpCAM labeling was nonsignificantly increased in 1 and unchanged in 2. High EpCAM labeling was verified using a different antibody for IHC, as well as in a separate series of surgically resected metastases compared to unmatched surgically resected primary breast cancers. In conclusion, EpCAM is highly expressed in MBCs compared to matched PBCs, verifying that it is a promising therapeutic target.