Stromal IGF-II messenger RNA in breast cancer: Relationship with progesterone receptor expressed by malignant epithelial cells

C. Giani, A. Pinchera, A. Rasmussen, P. Fierabracci, R. Bonacci, D. Campani, G. Bevilacqua, B. Trock, M. E. Lippman, K. J. Cullen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


In breast cancer, insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) is stromal in origin and is considered an important regulator of tumour epithelium growth. The presence of progesterone receptor (PR) is expression of an intact oestrogen regulatory pathway of breast malignant epithelial cells and represents a parameter of cell differentiation in breast cancer. In this study we have examined the relationship between IGF-II mRNA expression and ER, PR content in 75 breast cancer. Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections were used to preserve histological details. IGF-II mRNA was evaluated by in situ hybridisation method and ER, PR by immunohistochemistry. IGF-II mRNA was scored semi-quantitatively: 2.6% breast tumour specimen expressed no IGF-II mRNA, 46.7% had low levels of expression (IGF-II) and 50.7% had moderate or high IGF-II mRNA content(IGF-II+). IGF-II mRNA was found in the stroma fibroblasts surrounding malignant lesions and no signal was detected in malignant epithelial cells. In contrast, ER and PR were expressed only by neoplastic epithelial cells and no immunoreactivity was found in the stroma: 50/75 (66.6%) breast cancer specimens were positive for ER (ER+) and 35 (46.6%) for PR (PR+). Both, IGF-II mRNA and PR were directly correlated with the stromal proliferation (p < 0.05 and p < 0.001, respectively). No relationship was found between IGF-II RNA and ER. In contrast 24/35 (73.5%) PR breast cancer tissues were IGF-II + (p < 0.01) and a strong correlation was found between epithelial PR immunostaining and stromal IGF-II mRNA content (p < 0.003). Our data indicate that in breast cancer IGF-II mRNA is generally expressed by stromal cells and ER and PR by ephitelial cancer cells, and that IGF-II mRNA expression is strongly related with both percentage and staining intensity of PR+ epithelial cancer cells. These data support the hypothesis that IGF-II produced by the fibroblasts may exert a paracrin effect on malignant epithelium regulating its differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-165
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of endocrinological investigation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • IGF-II
  • In situ hybridisation
  • Progesterone receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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