Estrogen receptor analysis in primary breast tumors by ligand-binding assay, immunocytochemical assay, and northern blot: a comparison
Estrogen receptor (ER) status is an important parameter in breast cancer management. In this study, ER protein contents established by two conventional techniques were confronted to ER mRNA level, to analyze whether the latter may be introduced in routine assay. Eighty-seven breast tumor samples were examined. ER amounts were determined by ligand-binding assay (LBA) and by computer-assisted immunocytochemical assay (ICA), ER mRNA was analysed and quantified by northern blot. Seventy-seven percent of tumor samples examined were positive for ER mRNA and they all expressed the 6.7-kb receptor signal. No trace of small-sized ER mRNA variants was detected in any sample. Following akaike information criterion (AIC) discriminant analysis, a simple linear correlation was found between ER mRNA levels and ER amounts provided by LBA. This was not observed when either mRNA or LBA values were compared to ICA values. These latter were found to rapidly reach a plateau at increasing mRNA or LBA values. In conclusion, our data points to the linear correlation between ER amounts determined in breast tumors at both protein and mRNA levels by quantitative methods; they also indicate that the semi-quantitative computer-associated ICA may complement rather than replace these quantitative methods.