Expression of the stem cell marker ALDH1 in BRCA1 related breast cancer

Marise R.Heerma Van Voss, Petra Van Der Groep, Joost Bart, Elsken Van Der Wall, Paul J. Van Diest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction The BRCA1 protein makes mammary stem cells differentiate into mature luminal and myoepithelial cells. If a BRCA1 mutation results in a differentiation block, an enlarged stem cell component might be present in the benign tissue of BRCA1 mutation carriers, and these mammary stem cells could be the origin of BRCA1 related breast cancer. Since ALDH1 is a marker of both mammary stem cells and breast cancer stem cells, we compared ALDH1 expression in malignant tissue of BRCA1 mutation carriers to non-carriers. Methods Forty-one BRCA1 related breast cancers and 41 age-matched sporadic breast cancers were immunohistochemically stained for ALDH1. Expression in epithelium and stroma was scored and compared. Results Epithelial (P=0.001) and peritumoral (P=0.001) ALDH1 expression was significantly higher in invasive BRCA1 related carcinomas compared to sporadic carcinomas. Intratumoral stromal ALDH1 expression was similarly high in both groups. ALDH1 tumor cell expression was an independent predictor of BRCA1 mutation status. Conclusion BRCA1 related breast cancers showed significantly more frequent epithelial ALDH1 expression, indicating that these hereditary tumors have an enlarged cancer stem cell component. Besides, (peritumoral) stromal ALDH1 expression was also more frequent in BRCA1 mutation carriers. ALDH1 may therefore be a diagnostic marker and a therapeutic target of BRCA1 related breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-10
Number of pages8
JournalCellular Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • ALDH1
  • BRCA1
  • Breast cancer
  • Hereditary breast cancer
  • Stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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