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Maspin expression is frequent and correlates with basal markers in triple-negative breast cancer

Yoshihisa Umekita1*, Yasuyo Ohi2, Masakazu Souda1, Yoshiaki Rai2, Yoshiaki Sagara2, Yasuaki Sagara2, Shugo Tamada2 and Akihide Tanimoto1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, Field of Oncology, Kagoshima University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences 8-35-1, Sakuragaoka, Kagoshima 890-8544, Japan

2 Hakuaikai Sagara Hospital, Kagoshima, 3-31, Matsubara, Kagoshima 892-0833, Japan

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Citation and License

Diagnostic Pathology 2011, 6:36  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-6-36

Published: 16 April 2011



Maspin is a unique member of the serine protease inhibitor superfamily and its expression is found in myoepithelial cells of normal mammary glands; therefore, it has been considered to be a myoepithelial marker. We previously reported that maspin was frequently expressed in biologically aggressive breast cancers. In turn, triple-negative (TN) breast cancer is a subtype of tumor with aggressive clinical behavior and shows frequent expression of basal markers. We hypothesized that maspin expression may be frequent and correlate with basal rather than myoepithelial markers in TN breast cancer.


Paraffin-embedded 135 TN invasive ductal carcinoma tissue samples were immunohistochemically investigated using the Dako Envision+ kit and primary antibodies for maspin, basal (CK5/6, EGFR, CK14) and myoepithelial markers (p63, CD10). The correlation between maspin expression and relapse-free survival (RFS) was investigated by the log-rank test.


The positive rate for maspin was 85.9% and significantly correlated with younger age (P = 0.0015), higher histological grade (P = 0.0013), CK5/6 positivity (P < 0.0001), CK14 positivity (P = 0.0034) and the basal-like subtype defined by CK5/6, EGFR and CK14 positivity (P = 0.013). The positive rates for CK5/6, EGFR, CK14, CD10 and p63 were 59.2%, 48.9%, 34.1%, 17.8% and 12.6%, respectively. There was no significant correlation between maspin expression and RFS.


The positive rate for maspin is the highest among known basal and myoepithelial markers, and strongly correlates with basal markers in TN breast cancer. These results suggested that maspin could be a candidate for a therapeutic target for TN breast cancer.