A signature of epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity and stromal activation in primary tumor modulates late recurrence in breast cancer independent of disease subtype.
INTRODUCTION: Despite improvements in adjuvant therapy, late systemic recurrences remain a lethal consequence of both early- and late-stage breast cancer. A delayed recurrence is thought to arise from a state of tumor dormancy, but the mechanisms that govern tumor dormancy remain poorly understood. METHODS: To address the features of breast tumors associated with late recurrence, but not confounded by variations in systemic treatment, we compiled breast tumor gene expression data from 4,767 patients and established a discovery cohort consisting of 743 lymph node-negative patients who did not receive systemic neoadjuvant or adjuvant therapy. We interrogated the gene expression profiles of the 743 tumors and identified gene expression patterns that were associated with early and late disease recurrence among these patients. We applied this classification to a subset of 46 patients for whom expression data from microdissected tumor epithelium and stroma was available, and identified a distinct gene signature in the stroma and also a corresponding tumor epithelium signature that predicted disease recurrence in the discovery cohort. This tumor epithelium signature was then validated as a predictor for late disease recurrence in the entire cohort of 4,767 patients. RESULTS: We identified a novel 51-gene signature from microdissected tumor epithelium associated with late disease recurrence in breast cancer independent of the molecular disease subtype. This signature correlated with gene expression alterations in the adjacent tumor stroma and describes a process of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and tumor-stroma interactions. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that an EMT-related gene signature in the tumor epithelium is related to both stromal activation and escape from disease dormancy in breast cancer. The presence of a late recurrence gene signature in the primary tumor also suggests that intrinsic features of this tumor regulate the transition of disseminated tumor cells into a dormant phenotype with the ability to outgrowth as recurrent disease.
Cheng, Q; Chang, JT; Gwin, WR; Zhu, J; Ambs, S; Geradts, J; Lyerly, HK
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