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Cancer stem cells markers CD44, CD24 and ALDH1 in breast cancer special histological types
  1. Francisco Ferro de Beça1,2,3,
  2. Pedro Caetano4,
  3. Renê Gerhard1,
  4. Cesar Augusto Alvarenga5,
  5. Madalena Gomes1,
  6. Joana Paredes1,2,
  7. Fernando Schmitt1,2
  1. 1IPATIMUP—Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of Porto University, Porto, Portugal
  2. 2Department of Pathology and Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
  3. 3Department of Anatomic Pathology, Centro Hospitalar de São João, Porto, Portugal
  4. 4ICBAS—Institute of Biomedical Sciences Abel Salazar, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
  5. 5Instituto de Patologia de Campinas, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil
  1. Correspondence to Professor Fernando Schmitt, IPATIMUP Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of Porto University, Rua Dr Roberto Frias s/n, Porto 4200-465, Portugal; fschmitt{at}


Aims CD44, CD24 and ALDH1 are the most consistently used biomarkers to identify and characterise the breast cancer stem cell (CSC) phenotype. However, most studies performed until now analysed samples of invasive ductal carcinomas of no special type (IDC-NST). Therefore, prevalence and clinical significance of these CSC markers in breast carcinomas of special histological types (SHT) is largely unknown. For that reason, this study aims to determine the distribution of the breast CD44, CD24 and ALDH1 CSC markers among a series of invasive breast carcinomas of SHT, in comparison with a series of IDC-NST.

Methods 117 invasive SHT breast carcinomas were analysed for the expression of CD44, CD24 and ALDH1, by immuhohistochemistry. The distribution of these CSC markers was evaluated among the distinct histological special types, and the results were compared with a series of 466 IDC-NST.

Results The expression prevalence of the breast CSC markers differed between special types and IDC-NST. Medullary, papillary and tubular carcinomas were enriched in the CSC phenotype CD44+/CD24−/low (80.0%, 100.0% and 100.0%, respectively, vs 45.3% in IDC-NST). Considering the ALDH1 cytoplasmic tumour expression, only medullary and metaplastic carcinomas displayed significant increase in CD44+/CD24-/low/ALDH1+ CSC phenotype frequency (36.4% and 28.6%, respectively, vs 4.8% in IDC-NST).

Conclusions The expression distribution of breast CSC markers is largely dependent on histological type. Interestingly, within the distinct SHT, medullary and metaplastic carcinomas are the two types highly associated with high-grade carcinomas, basal-like and claudin-low molecular subtypes, and to the CSC phenotype CD44+/CD24−/low/ALDH1+.

  • Breast Cancer
  • Cancer Stem Cells
  • Molecular Pathology

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