Research Article| Volume 117, ISSUE 3, P241-246, March 1995

Relationship between low estrogen receptor values and other prognostic factors in primary breast tumors

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      Background. The current study compared the immunocytochemical expression of estrogen (ER) and progesterone (PgR) receptors by malignant breast cells to the hormone receptor concentrations reported from radioligand assays. These values were examined in relation to DNA ploidy and the fraction of cells in S phase.
      Methods. ER and PgR concentrations, DNA ploidy, and S-phase fractions were measured by standard techniques with 124 samples of invasive ductal carcinoma. Suspensions of tumor cells were examined by immunocytochemical assay (ICA) for the percentages of ER and PgR positive cells.
      Results. Twenty-six of the 38 tumors from patients 50 years of age or younger were classified as high S-phase fraction, and 28 tumors had aneuploid levels of DNA. The 20 ER positive tumors each contained less than 100 fmol/mg. Thirty-nine of the 86 tumors from patients older than 50 years were classified as high S phase, and 41 were aneuploid. Sixty-five samples were considered ER positive by radioligand assay. ICA showed that tumors in either age group with less than 40 fmol/mg did not contain ER positive cells. The proportion of samples with PgR levels between 10 and 100 fmol/mg was small, and fewer PgR positive tumors were categorized as negative when examined by ICA for receptor containing cells. The reclassification of the hormone receptor status of a tumor based on ICA appeared to be independent of S-phase and ploidy values.
      Conclusions. Tumors that are classified as ER or PgR positive based on accepted cutoff values for radioligand assays may actually be receptor negative because the tumors do not appear to contain receptor positive cells.
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