Expression of apocrine differentiation markers in neuroendocrine breast carcinomas of aged women

A. Sapino, L. Righi, P. Cassoni, M. Papotti, P. Gugliotta, G. Bussolati

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Neuroendocrine (NE) breast carcinomas are a rare entity in young women; however, their frequency increases in aged patients. The present work demonstrates that NE breast carcinomas in elderly women can also express an apocrine immunophenotype and analyzes the histological and clinical aspects of such differentiation. A selected series of 50 NE tumors (positive for NE markers in ≥50% of the cells) was tested for the immunocytochemical expression of gross cystic disease fluid protein-15 (GCDFP-15). The results demonstrated that about 50% of moderately (G2) and well-differentiated (G1) NE breast carcinomas (mucinous, solid papillary, and solid cohesive histotypes) coexpressed the apocrine marker. In these cases, specific mRNA for GCDFP-15 (PIP) and for chromogranin A (ChA) was demonstrated using in situ hybridization (ISH). Carcinomas of the alveolar subtype (G2) and poorly differentiated carcinomas (G3), including one case of atypical carcinoid, were pure NE carcinomas, devoid of apocrine differentiation. The steroid receptor status of these lesions was evaluated to test a possible involvement of androgen receptors in apocrine differentiation. We demonstrated that the level of AR and the mean age of patients at diagnosis were significantly higher in apocrine than in non-apocrine differentiated tumors. The histological grade and the expression of estrogen receptor (ER) significantly influenced the prognosis of these NE carcinomas, either pure or NE-apocrine differentiated. The most original result of our study is therefore the demonstration of a possible divergent apocrine differentiation of NE breast carcinomas that might be regulated by the activation of androgen receptors in elder patients. In addition, the possibility for using Chs or GCDFP-15 serum values in the follow-up of these patients, as demonstrated in two cases of the present series, can justify the immunophenotyping of the tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)768-776
Number of pages9
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Age
  • Apocrine
  • Breast carcinoma
  • Hormone receptor
  • Neuroendocrine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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