Metallothionein expression in human breast cancer

H. Goulding, B. Jasani, H. Pereira, A. Reid, M. Galea, J. A. Bell, C. W. Elston, J. F. Robertson, R. W. Blamey, R. A. Nicholson, K. W. Schmid, I. O. Ellis

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89 Citations (Scopus)


Metallothioneins are ubiquitous low molecular weight proteins characterised by high cysteine content and affinity for binding heavy metals. Abnormal metallothionein function and expression have been implicated in various disease states, including neoplasia. The aim of this study was to investigate metallothionein expression in human breast carcinoma. Sections of routinely fixed and processed blocks of tumour from 100 consecutive cases of primary operable breast carcinoma were stained for metallothionein using a recently developed monoclonal antibody and a standard immunohistochemical technique. Expression was scored on the basis of microscopical assessment of percentage of tumour cells staining. One patient was lost to follow-up and excluded from the study. A significant association (P ≪ 0.0001) was observed between metallothionein expression and tumour type, with low levels being observed in tumours of good prognostic type. There was also a significant association with local recurrence (P ≪ 0.02) and a significant difference (P ≪ 0.02) in both survival and disease-free interval between tumours showing low and high levels of expression, the latter indicating a poor prognosis. No relationship was observed with patient age, tumour size, lymph node stage, histological grade, vascular invasion, menopausal status or oestrogen receptor status. The assessment of metallothionein expression in human breast cancer appears to provide prognostic information and may have important implications for understanding its development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)968-972
Number of pages5
JournalBritish journal of cancer
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast carcinoma
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Metallothionein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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