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Role of CD44 as cancer stem cell marker in triple-negative breast cancer and its association with histological grade and angiogenesis

1 Department of Pathology, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Surgery, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Garima Rakheja,
Department of Pathology, Maulana Azad Medical College, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi - 110 002
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijpm.ijpm_437_21

Introduction: Cancer stem cells (CSC) within the tumors play a central role in tumorigenesis. It is, thus, of utmost importance to identify these cells to develop effective cancer therapy. Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive molecular subtype of breast cancer associated with poor patient outcomes. The role of CD44 immunohistochemistry (IHC) as a putative CSC in breast carcinomas, particularly of the TNBC-subtype is ambiguous, with equivocal results. Aims and Objectives: The present study aims to assess the role of CSC in breast carcinoma by immunohistochemical analysis of CD44 expression in TNBC. The association of TNBC expressing CSC with histological grade as well as with angiogenesis (using CD34 IHC) has been studied. Material and Methods: Biopsy samples from 58 patients with infiltrating ductal carcinoma, NST were studied. The histology of the tumor was sub-classified into grades 1–3. Based on immunohistochemical analysis (ER, PR, HER2/Neu), the cases were divided into TNBC and NTNBC groups. The tissue sections were also subjected to analysis for CD44 to identify the CSC-phenotype and CD34 to evaluate angiogenesis, to determine the microvascular density (MVD). Results: Out of the 58 cases in the study, 28 were TNBC and 30 were NTNBC. CSC phenotype (CD44 positive) was expressed significantly higher in the TNBC (78%) versus the NTNBC (53%) (p-value 0.043). The MVD estimated using CD34 IHC was lower in the TNBC group in our study, though the difference was not statistically significant. A larger proportion of cases in TNBC showed a higher histological grade (35%) in comparison to NTNBC (27%). However, statistically, it was not significant. Conclusion: Our study demonstrated that CD44 as a CSC marker is seen significantly more in the TNBC category of invasive ductal carcinomas. Further large-scale studies, to confirm these findings, will be of potential therapeutic and prognostic value.

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