AR Green, MA Aleskandarany, D Agarwal, S Elsheikh, CC Nolan, M Diez-Rodriguez, RD Macmillan, GR Ball, C Caldas, S Madhusudan, IO Ellis, EA Rakha
Br J Cancer
BACKGROUND: MYC is amplified in approximately 15% of breast cancers (BCs) and is associated with poor outcome. c-MYC protein is multi-faceted and participates in many aspects of cellular function and is linked with therapeutic response in BCs. We hypothesised that the functional role of c-MYC differs between molecular subtypes of BCs. METHODS: We therefore investigated the correlation between c-MYC protein expression and other proteins involved in different cellular functions together with clinicopathological parameters, patients' outcome and treatments in a large early-stage molecularly characterised series of primary invasive BCs (n=1106) using immunohistochemistry. The METABRIC BC cohort (n=1980) was evaluated for MYC mRNA expression and a systems biology approach utilised to identify genes associated with MYC in the different BC molecular subtypes. RESULTS: High MYC and c-MYC expression was significantly associated with poor prognostic factors, including grade and basal-like BCs. In luminal A tumours, c-MYC was associated with ATM (P=0.005), Cyclin B1 (P=0.002), PIK3CA (P=0.009) and Ki67 (P<0.001). In contrast, in basal-like tumours, c-MYC showed positive association with Cyclin E (P=0.003) and p16 (P=0.042) expression only. c-MYC was an independent predictor of a shorter distant metastases-free survival in luminal A LN+ tumours treated with endocrine therapy (ET; P=0.013). In luminal tumours treated with ET, MYC mRNA expression was associated with BC-specific survival (P=0.001). In ER-positive tumours, MYC was associated with expression of translational genes while in ER-negative tumours it was associated with upregulation of glucose metabolism genes. CONCLUSIONS: c-MYC function is associated with specific molecular subtypes of BCs and its overexpression confers resistance to ET. The diverse mechanisms of c-MYC function in the different molecular classes of BCs warrants further investigation particularly as potential therapeutic targets.