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Nerve growth factor receptor (NGFR): a potential marker for specific molecular subtypes of breast cancer
  1. Julia Y S Tsang1,
  2. Ken H Y Wong1,
  3. Michael W H Lai1,
  4. Maribel D Lacambra1,
  5. Chun-Wai Ko1,
  6. Siu Ki Chan2,
  7. Christopher C F Lam1,
  8. Alex M C Yu1,
  9. Puay-Hoon Tan3,
  10. Gary M Tse1
  1. 1Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  2. 2Department of Pathology, Kwong Wah Hospital, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  3. 3Department of Pathology, Singapore General Hospital, Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gary MTse, Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Ngan Shing Street, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong, Hong Kong; garytse{at}


Aims Nerve growth factor receptor (NGFR) is a transmembrane receptor for the neurotrophin family. It acts either as tumour suppressor or oncogene depending on cellular context. Its role in breast cancers remained conflicting, possibly due to the heterogeneity of breast cancer subtypes.

Methods In this study, we have analysed NGFR expression in 602 cases of breast cancers by immunohistochemistry. Its expression was correlated with biomarker expression and different breast cancer subtypes.

Results NGFR expression was found to be positively correlated with basal markers, including Ki67, Cytokeratin (CK5/6), CK14, p63, c-kit and Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) , but negatively with hormonal receptors. Among different molecular subtypes, it was negatively associated with luminal A, but positively with luminal B, and basal-like breast cancer BLBC subtypes. When comparing NGFR with other basal markers in BLBC, though less sensitive, its specificity was comparable to or better than other basal markers. For luminal B cancers, NGFR showed a high specificity which was also comparable to or better than the defining markers (estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), Human epidermal growth receptor 2 (HER2) and Ki-67) for the subtype.

Conclusions Overall, these findings suggested that NGFR expression could be indicative for the BLBCs or luminal B subtypes. It may represent a potential adjunct marker for these two subtypes.

  • Breast Cancer
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Histopathology

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