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CXCR4 and JUNB double-positive disseminated tumor cells are detected frequently in breast cancer patients at primary diagnosis

Kallergi Galatea, Hoffmann Oliver, Bittner Ann-Kathrin, Papadimitriou Lina, Katsarou Spyridoula D., Zacharopoulou Nefeli, Zervakis Michail, Sfakianakis Stelios, Stournaras Christos, Georgoulias Vassilis, Kimmig, Rainer, Kasimir-Bauer, Sabine, 1963-

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Year 2020
Type of Item Peer-Reviewed Journal Publication
Bibliographic Citation G. Kallergi, O. Hoffmann, A.-K. Bittner, L. Papadimitriou, S. D. Katsarou, N. Zacharopoulou, M. Zervakis, S. Sfakianakis, C. Stournaras, V. Georgoulias, R. Kimmig, and S. Kasimir-Bauer, “CXCR4 and JUNB double-positive disseminated tumor cells are detected frequently in breast cancer patients at primary diagnosis,” Ther. Adv. Med. Oncol., vol. 12, Jan. 2020. doi: 10.1177/1758835919895754
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Background:The chemokine receptor CXCR4 and the transcription factor JUNB, expressed on a variety of tumor cells, seem to play an important role in the metastatic process. Since disseminated tumor cells (DTCs) in the bone marrow (BM) have been associated with worse outcomes, we evaluated the expression of CXCR4 and JUNB in DTCs of primary, nonmetastatic breast cancer (BC) patients before the onset of any systemic treatment.Methods:Bilateral BM (10 ml) aspirations of 39 hormone receptor (HR)-positive, HER2-negative BC patients were assessed for the presence of DTCs using the following combination of antibodies: pan-cytokeratin (A45-B/B3)/CXCR4/JUNB. An expression pattern of the examined proteins was created using confocal laser scanning microscopy, Image J software and BC cell lines.Results:CXCR4 was overexpressed in cancer cells and DTCs, with the following hierarchy of expression: SKBR3 > MCF7 > DTCs > MDA-MB231. Accordingly, the expression pattern of JUNB was: DTCs > MDA-MB231 > SKBR3 > MCF7. The mean intensity of CXCR4 (6411 ± 334) and JUNB (27725.64 ± 470) in DTCs was statistically higher compared with BM hematopoietic cells (2009 ± 456, p = 0.001; and 11112.89 ± 545, p = 0.001, respectively). The (CXCR4+JUNB+CK+) phenotype was the most frequently detected [90% (35/39)], followed by the (CXCR4–JUNB+CK+) phenotype [36% (14/39)]. However, (CXCR4+JUNB–CK+) tumor cells were found in only 5% (3/39) of patients. Those patients harboring DTCs with the (CXCR4+JUNB+CK+) phenotype revealed lower overall survival (Cox regression: p = 0.023).Conclusions:(CXCR4+JUNB+CK+)-expressing DTCs, detected frequently in the BM of BC patients, seem to identify a subgroup of patients at higher risk for relapse that may be considered for close follow up.

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