p21WAF1/CIP1 Expression in breast cancers: associations with p53 and outcome
p21WAF1/CIP1 is transcriptionally activated by wt p53 and inhibits G1 associated cyclins, a major mechanism by which p53 inhibits cellular proliferation. Archival breast cancers (798) with a median follow-up of 16.3 years were used to explore the prognostic value of p2l immunohistochemical analyses. p21 immunostaining was detected in the majority (726/798: 91%) of breast cancers as well as adjacent in situ carcinomas (125/170: 74%), hyperplastic lesions (140/349: 40%) and normal breast epithelium adjacent to carcinoma (3/89: 3%). Complete immunonegativity was observed in only 9% of invasive cancers and was associated with p53 immunopositivity (p<0.05).
Univariate analysis of all patients showed that p21 negativity was associated with a longer disease specific survival (relative risk (RR) 1.5). Node positive p21 – patients also showed a longer disease free and disease specific survival as compared to tumor p21+ patients. In node negative patients, p53 positivity but not p21 alone, was significantly associated with a shortened disease free survival (RR = 1.6). Node negative patients who were p53 + p21−, in particular had the shortest disease free survival compared to other p53, p21 subgroups (i.e., p21 negativity was associated with a worse outcome). Multivariate analysis of lymph node negative patients (n>300) demonstrated that tumor size and tumor grade were independently predictive of outcome, whereas neither p53 nor p21 were significant. For node positive patients, p21 positivity (p=0.05), p53 positivity (p=0.03), a higher number of positive nodes, larger tumor size, steroid receptor negativity, high proliferation rate, and erbB-2 expression were each independently associated with poor outcome.
In summary, p21 negativity was inversely correlated with p53 immunopositivity in the majority of cases. p21 negative tumor patients had an improved outcome if they were node positive, whereas p21 status was not significantly associated with survival in node negative patients. This observation may be due to the reported ‘uncoupling of S phase and mitosis’ associated with a loss of p21 expression which may result in enhanced sensitivity to chemotherapy.
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