, Volume 86, Issue 3, pp 207-213

High Ep-CAM Expression is Associated with Poor Prognosis in Node-positive Breast Cancer

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Previous studies in small series of patients with invasive breast cancer suggested a prognostic value of Ep-CAM overexpression in primary tumor tissue. To corroborate these findings, we performed a retrospective analysis of Ep-CAM expression using a tissue microarray containing tissue specimens from a large patient set. Ep-CAM expression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry in breast cancer tissue from 1715 patients with documented raw survival data. High level Ep-CAM expression (overexpression) was found in 41.7% of tumor samples, low level expression was found in 48.0% and no expression in 10.3% of tumor samples. Ep-CAM expression predicted poor overall survival in this patient cohort (p < 0.0001). Overall survival decreased significantly with increasing Ep-CAM expression. However, in this patient sample Ep-CAM expression was not an independent prognostic marker by multivariate analysis. Subgroup analysis revealed that Ep-CAM expression was a prognostic marker in node-positive (p < 0.0001) but not in node-negative (p= 0.58) breast cancer patients. Intriguingly, Ep-CAM expression was predictive for a dismal prognosis in patients receiving adjuvant cytotoxic (p= 0.03) or hormonal therapy (p < 0.0001) but not in untreated patients (p= 0.41). In summary, this study provides strong evidence that expression of Ep-CAM is a powerful marker of poor prognosis in node-positive invasive breast carcinoma and a potential predictive marker of sensitivity to adjuvant hormonal and/or cytotoxic treatment modalities.