Promoter hypermethylation in male breast cancer: Analysis by multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification

Robert Kornegoor, Cathy B. Moelans, Anoek H.J. Verschuur-Maes, Marieke C.H. Hogenes, Peter C. de Bruin, Joost J. Oudejans, Paul J. van Diest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Introduction: Epigenetic events are, along with genetic alteration, important in the development and progression of cancer. Promoter hypermethylation causes gene silencing and is thought to be an early event in carcinogenesis. The role of promoter hypermethylation in male breast cancer has not yet been studied. Methods: In a group of 108 male breast cancers, the methylation status of 25 genes was studied using methylation-specific multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification. Methylation of more than 15% was regarded indicative for promoter hypermethylation. Methylation status was correlated with clinicopathological features, with patients' outcome and with 28 female breast cancer cases. Results: Promoter hypermethylation of the genes MSH6, WT1, PAX5, CDH13, GATA5 and PAX6 was seen in more than 50% of the cases, but was uncommon or absent in normal male breast tissue. High overall methylation status was correlated with high grade (P = 0.003) and was an independent predictor of poor survival (P = 0.048; hazard ratio 2.5). ESR1 and GSTP1 hypermethylation were associated with high mitotic count (P = 0.037 and P = 0.002, respectively) and high grade (both P = 0.001). No correlation with survival was seen for individual genes. Compared with female breast cancers (logistic regression), promoter hypermethylation was less common in a variety of genes, particularly ESR1 (P = 0.005), BRCA1 (P = 0.010) and BRCA2 (P < 0.001). The most frequently hypermethylated genes (MSH6, CDH13, PAX5, PAX6 and WT1) were similar for male and female breast cancer. Conclusion: Promoter hypermethylation is common in male breast cancer and high methylation status correlates with aggressive phenotype and poor survival. ESR1 and GSTP1 promoter hypermethylation seem to be involved in development and/or progression of high-grade male breast cancer. Although female and male breast cancer share a set of commonly methylated genes, many of the studied genes are less frequently methylated in male breast cancer, pointing towards possible differences between male and female breast carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberR101
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 5 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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