(HealthDay News) – Trefoil (TFF3) protein, which maintains the integrity of the epithelial surface in the normal breast, is highly expressed in well-differentiated tumors, correlating with low histological grade, and also has an expression profile which is consistent with a role in breast cancer progression and metastasis, according to a study published in the March issue of The American Journal of Pathology.

Noting that TFF3 is known to stimulate invasion and angiogenesis in vitro, Ahmed R.H. Ahmed, of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom, and colleagues examined the expression of TFF3 in 34 normal breast-tissue samples, 86 benign breast lesions, 106 in situ breast lesions, and 266 malignant breast lesions.

The researchers found that TFF3 was expressed in normal breast tissue, all benign lesions, 89% of in situ lesions, and 83% of invasive lesions. TFF3 expression was high in well-differentiated tumors, and correlated with low histological grade and with the expression of estrogen and progesterone receptors. TFF3 expression was also an independent predictive marker of lymphovascular invasion and lymph node involvement, and was strongly associated with markers of angiogenesis such as microvessel density.

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“In conclusion, TFF3 is expressed in both the normal and diseased breast,” Ahmed and colleagues write. “Although associated with features of good prognosis, its profile of expression in invasive cancer is consistent with a role in breast-tumor progression and tumor-cell dissemination.”

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