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Volume 10 Supplement 2

Breast Cancer Research 2008

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Reelin expression in breast tumours is associated with increased survival and is controlled by promoter methylation


Reelin is a secreted signalling protein whose major function has so far been described in the developing brain, where it is involved in cell positioning of neuronal progenitor cells. Recently, the Reelin promoter has been found to be methylated in pancreatic cancer and this was associated with increased migratory ability [1], whereas in the prostate Reelin expression is associated with high-grade cancers [2].


We measured the Reelin expression and promoter methylation status in breast cancer-derived cell lines and in a cohort of 64 breast cancer cases. We further stained sections of normal, benign, and cancerous human breast, as well as two tissue arrays of 168 and 2,200 breast cancer patients, respectively. Reelin staining was analysed with regards to other clinical parameters and survival.


Promoter methylation status in breast cancer cell lines, as well as in primary cancers, corresponds with reduced expression of Reelin. In the normal breast, Reelin is expressed in the luminal epithelium and myoepithelium, but is lost during breast cancer progression. Reelin expression correlates with increased survival (P = 0.01) and negative lymph node status. Treatment of breast cancer cell lines with the demethylating agent decitabine leads to re-expression of Reelin RNA.


Reelin expression in the breast is associated with increased survival and negative lymph node status, and is controlled at least in part by promoter methylation. Reelin is therefore a novel potential tumour suppressor gene in the breast.


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  2. Perrone G, Vincenzi B, Zagami M, et al: Reelin expression in human prostate cancer: a marker of tumor aggressiveness based on correlation with grade. Mod Pathol. 2007, 20: 344-351. 10.1038/modpathol.3800743.

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Funded by a project grant from Breakthrough Breast Cancer to BAG and TS.

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Stein, T., Cosimo, E., Smith, P. et al. Reelin expression in breast tumours is associated with increased survival and is controlled by promoter methylation. Breast Cancer Res 10 (Suppl 2), P25 (2008).

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