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BACKGROUND: Intratumorous hypoxia triggers a broad cellular response mediated by the transcription factor hypoxia inducible factor 1 (HIF-1). HIF-1alpha concentrations increase during breast carcinogenesis, and are associated with poor prognosis. An earlier study noted two HIF-1alpha overexpression patterns: diffuse scattered throughout the tissue and confined to perinecrotic cells. AIMS: To investigate the prognostic impact of these different HIF-1alpha overexpression patterns in relation to its downstream effectors carbonic anhydrase (CA) IX and glucose transporter 1 (GLUT-1). METHODS: HIF-1alpha, CA IX, and GLUT-1 expression was studied by immunohistochemistry, including double staining for CA IX and HIF-1alpha. Clinical data included disease free survival, lymph node status, and tumour size. RESULTS: HIF-1alpha overexpression (44% of cases) had a perinecrotic (13.5%) or diffuse staining pattern (30.5%). CA IX expression was detectable in 12.5% of breast cancers, whereas GLUT-1 expression was seen in 29%, with both showing perinecrotic membrane staining. Perinecrotic HIF-1alpha overexpression was highly associated with CA IX and GLUT-1 overexpression, and double staining for HIF-1alpha and CA IX showed strong expression in the same cells. Diffusely overexpressed HIF-1alpha was not associated with CA IX or GLUT-1 expression. Patients with diffuse HIF-1alpha staining had a significantly better prognosis than patients with perinecrotically overexpressed HIF-1alpha. CONCLUSIONS: Different regulation pathways of HIF-1alpha overexpression exist in breast cancer: (1) hypoxia induced, perinecrotic HIF-1alpha overexpression with strong expression of hypoxia associated genes (CA IX and GLUT-1), which is associated with a poor prognosis; and (2) diffuse HIF-1alpha overexpression lacking major hypoxia associated downstream effects, resulting in a more favourable prognosis.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Pathol

Publication Date





172 - 177


Antigens, Neoplasm, Biomarkers, Tumor, Breast Neoplasms, Carbonic Anhydrase IX, Carbonic Anhydrases, Female, Glucose Transporter Type 1, Humans, Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit, Immunohistochemistry, Monosaccharide Transport Proteins, Necrosis, Neoplasm Invasiveness, Neoplasm Proteins, Prognosis, Survival Analysis, Transcription Factors