BackgroundThere are limited data regarding the hypoxia pathway in familial breast cancers. We therefore performed a study of hypoxic factors in BRCA1, BRCA2 and BRCAX breast cancers.
MethodsImmunoperoxidase staining for HIF-1alpha, PHD1, PHD2, PHD3, VEGF and FIH was carried out in 125 (38 BRCA1, 33 BRCA2 and 54 BRCAX) breast carcinomas. These were correlated with clinicopathological parameters and the intrinsic breast cancer phenotypes.
ResultsBRCA1 tumours correlated with positivity for HIF-1alpha (P=0.008) and negativity for PHD3 (P=0.037). HIF-1alpha positivity (P=0.001), PHD3 negativity (P=0.037) and nuclear FIH negativity (P=0.011) was associated with basal phenotype. HIF-1alpha expression correlated with high tumour grade (P=0.009), negative oestrogen receptor (ER) status (P=0.001) and the absence of lymph node metastasis (P=0.028). Nuclear FIH expression and PHD3 correlated with positive ER expression (P=0.024 and P=0.035, respectively). BRCA1 cancers with positive HIF-1alpha or cytoplasmic FIH had a significantly shorter relapse-free survival (P=0.007 and P=0.049, respectively).
ConclusionsThe aggressive nature of BRCA1 and basal-type tumours may be partly explained by an enhanced hypoxic drive and hypoxia driven ER degradation because of suppressed PHD and aberrantly located FIH expression. This may have important implications, as these tumours may respond to compounds directed against HIF-1alpha or its downstream targets.