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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Diagnostic utility of snail in metaplastic breast carcinoma

Aziza Nassar1*, Nicole Sookhan2, Marta Santisteban3, Sandra C Bryant4, Judy C Boughey5, Tamar Giorgadze6 and Amy Degnim5

Author affiliations

1 Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

2 The Breast and Oncology Center, St. Mary's Health System, Southbury, CT, USA

3 Department of Medical Oncology, ClĂ­nica Universidad de Navarra, Spain

4 Department of Health Sciences Research, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

5 Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

6 Department of Pathology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, MI, USA

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Citation and License

Diagnostic Pathology 2010, 5:76  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-5-76

Published: 26 November 2010

Abstract

Metaplastic breast carcinoma (MBC) is a rare subtype of breast cancer characterized by coexistence of carcinomatous and sarcomatous components. Snail is a nuclear transcription factor incriminated in the transition of epithelial to mesenchymal differentiation of breast cancer. Aberrant Snail expression results in lost expression of the cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin, an event associated with changes in epithelial architecture and invasive growth. We aimed to identify the utility of Snail, and of traditional immunohistochemical markers, in accurate MBC classification and to evaluate clinicopathologic characteristics and outcome.

We retrospectively reviewed 34 MBC cases from January 1997 to September 2007. The control group contained 26 spindle cell lesions. Immunohistochemistry used Snail, p63, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), OSCAR, and wide spectrum cytokeratin (WS-KER). Negative was a score less than 1%. We found that Snail and EGFR are sensitive (100%) markers with low specificity (3.8% and 19.2%) for detecting MBC. p63 and WS-KER are specific (100%), with moderate sensitivity (67.6% and 76.5%); OSCAR is sensitive (85.3%) and specific (92.3%). A combination of any 2 of the p63, OSCAR, and WS-KER markers increased sensitivity and specificity. MBCs tended to be high-grade (77%), triple negative (negative for estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER2) [27/33; 81.8%], and carcinomas with low incidence of axillary lymph node involvement (15%), and decreased disease-free [71% (95%CI: 54%, 94%) at 3 yrs.) and overall survival. A combination of p63, OSCAR and WS-KER are useful in its work-up. On the other hand, Snail is neither a diagnostic nor a prognostic marker for MBC.