Purpose: Most often it is not the primary tumor, but metastasis to distant organs that results in the death of breast cancer patients. To characterize molecular alterations in breast cancer metastasis, we investigated the frequency of hypermethylation of five genes (Cyclin D2, RAR-β, Twist, RASSF1A, and HIN-1) in metastasis to four common sites: lymph node, bone, brain, and lung. Experimental Design: Methylation-specific PCR for the five genes was performed on DNA extracted from archival paraffin-embedded specimens of paired primary breast cancer and its lymph nodes (LN) metastasis (n = 25 each); in independent samples of metastasis to the bone (n = 12), brain (n = 8), and lung (n = 10); and in normal bone, brain, and lung (n = 22). Results: No hypermethylation was detected in the five genes in the normal host tissues. In paired samples, LN metastasis had a trend of higher prevalence of methylation compared with the primary breast carcinoma for all five genes with significance for HIN-1 (P = 0.04). Compared with the primary breast carcinomas, all five genes had higher methylation frequencies in the bone, brain, and lung metastasis, with HIN-1 and RAR-β methylation being significantly higher (P < 0.01) in each group. Loss of expression of all five genes correlated, with a few exceptions, to hypermethylation of their promoter sequences in metastatic carcinoma cells microdissected from LNs. Conclusion: The frequent presence of hypermethylated genes in locoregional and distant metastasis could render them particularly susceptible to therapy targeted toward gene reactivation combining demethylating agents, histone deacetylase inhibitors, and/or differentiating agents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research