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Several in vitro studies stress a potentially important role of interleukin 4 (IL-4) and the related gp200-MR6 molecule in the immunological response to cancer and in tumour proliferation. In the present study, we assessed the expression of gp200-MR6 in primary breast cacrinomas using the MR6 monoclonal antibody. Results were correlated with tumour parameters (T-,N-stage, histology, grade, oestrogen and epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptors), and the impact on survival was assessed. Twenty-four out of 110 cases (22%) were positive for gp200-MR6, 62 out of 110 (56%) expressed weak staining and 24 out of 114 (22%) did not stain. The normal breast epithelia were invariably stained for gp200-MR6 showing that down-regulation or loss of this molecule occurred during the evolution of breast cancer. Gp200-MR6 loss was independent from differentiation, nodal positivity and oestrogen receptor levels as well as patients' age. Loss of the gp200-MR6 molecule was more frequent in lobular cases (P=0.03). The overall survival was better, although not reaching statistical significance, in patients with positive gp200-MR6 expression (92% alive at 5 years compared with 70% for those with weak or no expression, P=0.1). The local relapse-free survival was independent of gp200-MR6 status. It is concluded that loss of gp200-MR6 may be one of the mechanisms through which breast cancer cells escape immune surveillance, resulting in an increased metastatic potential and poorer outcome. Evidence of down-regulation of the gp200-MR6 molecule has implications for IL-4-linked toxin therapy and, as IL-4 is an inhibitor of breast epithelial growth, may represent loss of a tumour-suppression mechanism.


Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





1627 - 1631


Analysis of Variance, Antibodies, Monoclonal, Antigens, CD, Antigens, Neoplasm, Breast Neoplasms, ErbB Receptors, Follow-Up Studies, Glycoproteins, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Lectins, C-Type, Middle Aged, Minor Histocompatibility Antigens, Neoplasm Staging, Prognosis, Receptors, Cell Surface, Receptors, Estrogen, Receptors, Interleukin, Receptors, Interleukin-4