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Märkl, Bruno; Kazik, Martin; Harbeck, Nadia; Jakubowicz, Elzbieta; Hoffmann, Reinhard; Jung, Thomas; Steinfeld, Dieter; Schenkirsch, Gerhard; Schlimok, Günter and Oruzio, Daniel (2019): Impact of uPA/PAI-1 and disseminated cytokeratin-positive cells in breast cancer. In: BMC Cancer 19:692 [PDF, 1MB]

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Background The protease uPA and its inhibitor PAI-1 play major roles in hemostasis and are also involved in cancer progression. This is mainly caused by their ability to degrade extracellular matrix-facilitating tumor cell migration. This study aimed to investigate the impact of uPA/PAI-1 and disseminated cytokeratin-positive cells (dCK+) on the outcome and the existence of synergistic effects. Methods We retrospectively analyzed a cohort of 480 breast cancer cases with known uPA/PAI-1 and dCK+ status. uPA/PAI-1 was tested on fresh tumor samples using a commercial ELISA test. Bone marrow aspirates were investigated immunocytochemically for CK18. Results DCK+ cells were identified in 23% of cases. uPA positivity was significantly associated with the occurrence of dCK+ cells (P = 0.028). uPA and PAI-1 were significantly associated with outcome in the subgroup of early-stage cases without chemotherapy. DCK+ cells alone were not prognostic. However, we found synergistic effects. In the subgroup of node-negative cases with and without chemotherapy, the prognostic impact of uPA and PAI-1 was enhanced in cases with additional dCK-positivity (triple +). In cases without chemotherapy, triple-positive status was independently prognostic (HR: 9.3 CI: 1.1–75) next to T stage. Conclusions uPA and PAI-1 seem to influence the metastatic potential of dCK+ cells, which underlines its important role in tumor progression.

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