Metastasising ability connotes one of the most important life-threatening properties of malignant neoplasms. Recent studies indicate that CD44 proteins, multifunctional cell adhesion molecules which contribute to "homing" of lymphocytes to lymph nodes as well as cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions, are potential markers of tumour progression. However, whether CD44 expression by human tumours contribute to increased metastatic risk remains controversial. In an attempt to clarify its role in breast cancer, we have investigated the correlation between CD44 expression by breast carcinoma and the presence of axillary lymph node metastases. CD44 expression was detected using a standard immunoperoxidase method on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded, primary infiltrating ductal breast carcinoma tissues taken from 60 female patients who underwent mastectomy with axillary node clearance. Tumours were graded according to the modified Bloom and Richardson criteria. 62% of patients had histologically-proven lymph node metastasis. 40% of primary cancers exhibited cytoplasmic membrane immunopositivity for CD44. 46% of primary tumours which have metastasied to axillary lymph nodes were CD44 positive whereas 30% of tumours which have not metastasised expressed CD44. CD44 positivity was expressed by 20% of grade 1, 31% grade 2 and 58% grade 3 tumours. Our results suggest that CD44 may have a role in the progression of breast cancer and emphasise the need to investigate its interaction with other mechanisms of cancer advancement.
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