In order to study the role of the p16INK4A(MTS1/CDKN2a) tumor suppressor in breast cancer, we analyzed p16 protein expression in 60 breast cancer samples which were also analyzed for expression of Rb, Ki67, HER2/neu, and estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER, PR). P16 expression was investigated by two methods: western blotting (WB) followed by densitometry, and immunohistochemistry (IHC). The Rb status was studied by western blotting, and expression of Ki67, HER2/neu, ER, and PR was analyzed immunohistochemically. P16-negative results were found in 18% of the carcinomas by WB, but in only one case by IHC and were not associated with established prognostic parameters. In contrast, p16 overexpression which was detected by WB and IHC in 15% and 25% of the tumors, respectively, was significantly associated with unfavorable prognostic indicators. High p16 expression as detected by both methods correlated significantly with high grading and a negative estrogen receptor status. In addition, a significant association of p16 staining with inverse progesterone receptor status and high Ki67 expression was found with IHC. No correlation of p16 expression with clinical stage, HER2/neu immunostaining, Rb expression or Rb phosphorylation was found. Comparison of western blot results and immunohistochemistry suggests that both nuclear and cytoplasmic immunoreactivity in tumor cells is specific and due to p16 expression. We conclude that high p16 reactivity (both nuclear and cytoplasmic) is indicative of a more undifferentiated, malignant phenotype in mammary carcinomas.
breast cancerimmunohistochemistryp16Rbwestern blots