Research Papers:

KCNJ3 is a new independent prognostic marker for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer patients

Sarah Kammerer, Armin Sokolowski, Hubert Hackl, Dieter Platzer, Stephan Wenzel Jahn, Amin El-Heliebi, Daniela Schwarzenbacher, Verena Stiegelbauer, Martin Pichler, Simin Rezania, Heidelinde Fiegl, Florentia Peintinger, Peter Regitnig, Gerald Hoefler, Wolfgang Schreibmayer and Thomas Bauernhofer _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:84705-84717. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13224

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Sarah Kammerer1,2, Armin Sokolowski1,9, Hubert Hackl3, Dieter Platzer1, Stephan Wenzel Jahn4, Amin El-Heliebi5, Daniela Schwarzenbacher6, Verena Stiegelbauer6, Martin Pichler6,7, Simin Rezania1,2, Heidelinde Fiegl8, Florentia Peintinger4, Peter Regitnig4, Gerald Hoefler4, Wolfgang Schreibmayer1,2, Thomas Bauernhofer2,6

1Molecular Physiology Group, Institute of Biophysics, Medical University of Graz, Austria

2Research Unit on Ion Channels and Cancer Biology, Medical University of Graz, Austria

3Division of Bioinformatics, Biocenter, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria

4Institute of Pathology, Medical University of Graz, Austria

5Institute of Cell Biology, Histology and Embryology, Medical University of Graz, Austria

6Division of Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Austria

7Department of Experimental Therapeutics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

8Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria

9Present address: Division of Prosthodontics, Restorative Dentistry, Periodontology and Implantology, Medical University of Graz, Austria

Correspondence to:

Thomas Bauernhofer, email: [email protected]

Keywords: KCNJ3, GIRK1, biomarker, estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, RNA in situ hybridization

Received: June 04, 2016     Accepted: October 26, 2016     Published: November 08, 2016


Numerous studies showed abnormal expression of ion channels in different cancer types. Amongst these, the potassium channel gene KCNJ3 (encoding for GIRK1 proteins) has been reported to be upregulated in tumors of patients with breast cancer and to correlate with positive lymph node status. We aimed to study KCNJ3 levels in different breast cancer subtypes using gene expression data from the TCGA, to validate our findings using RNA in situ hybridization in a validation cohort (GEO ID GSE17705), and to study the prognostic value of KCNJ3 using survival analysis. In a total of > 1000 breast cancer patients of two independent data sets we showed a) that KCNJ3 expression is upregulated in tumor tissue compared to corresponding normal tissue (p < 0.001), b) that KCNJ3 expression is associated with estrogen receptor (ER) positive tumors (p < 0.001), but that KCNJ3 expression is variable within this group, and c) that ER positive patients with high KCNJ3 levels have worse overall (p < 0.05) and disease free survival probabilities (p < 0.01), whereby KCNJ3 is an independent prognostic factor (p <0.05). In conclusion, our data suggest that patients with ER positive breast cancer might be stratified into high risk and low risk groups based on the KCNJ3 levels in the tumor.

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