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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Cancer 1/2017

Invasive micropapillary carcinoma of the breast overexpresses MUC4 and is associated with poor outcome to adjuvant trastuzumab in HER2-positive breast cancer

BMC Cancer > Ausgabe 1/2017
María F. Mercogliano, Gloria Inurrigarro, Mara De Martino, Leandro Venturutti, Martín A. Rivas, Rosalía Cordo-Russo, Cecilia J. Proietti, Elmer A. Fernández, Isabel Frahm, Sabrina Barchuk, Daniel H. Allemand, Silvina Figurelli, Ernesto Gil Deza, Sandra Ares, Felipe G. Gercovich, Eduardo Cortese, Matías Amasino, Pablo Guzmán, Juan C. Roa, Patricia V. Elizalde, Roxana Schillaci
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12885-017-3897-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Invasive micropapillary carcinoma of the breast (IMPC) is a histological tumor variant that occurs with low frequency characterized by an inside-out formation of tumor clusters with a pseudopapillary arrangement. IMPC is an aggressive tumor with poor clinical outcome. In addition, this histological subtype usually expresses human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) which also correlates with a more aggressive tumor. In this work we studied the clinical significance of IMPC in HER2-positive breast cancer patients treated with adjuvant trastuzumab. We also analyzed mucin 4 (MUC4) expression as a novel biomarker to identify IMPC.


We retrospectively studied 86 HER2-positive breast cancer patients treated with trastuzumab and chemotherapy in the adjuvant setting. We explored the association of the IMPC component with clinicopathological parameters at diagnosis and its prognostic value. We compared MUC4 expression in IMPC with respect to other histological breast cancer subtypes by immunohistochemistry.


IMPC, either as a pure entity or associated with invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), was present in 18.6% of HER2-positive cases. It was positively correlated with estrogen receptor expression and tumor size and inversely correlated with patient’s age. Disease-free survival was significantly lower in patients with IMPC (hazard ratio = 2.6; 95%, confidence interval 1.1–6.1, P = 0.0340). MUC4, a glycoprotein associated with metastasis, was strongly expressed in all IMPC cases tested. IMPC appeared as the histological breast cancer subtype with the highest MUC4 expression compared to IDC, lobular and mucinous carcinoma.


In HER2-positive breast cancer, the presence of IMPC should be carefully examined. As it is often not informed, because it is relatively difficult to identify or altogether overlooked, we propose MUC4 expression as a useful biomarker to highlight IMPC presence. Patients with MUC4-positive tumors with IMPC component should be more frequently monitored and/or receive additional therapies.
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