Research Papers:

Assessing the efficacy of androgen receptor and Sox10 as independent markers of the triple-negative breast cancer subtype by transcriptome profiling

Khalid N. Al-Zahrani _, David P. Cook, Barbara C. Vanderhyden and Luc A. Sabourin

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:33348-33359. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.26072

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Khalid N. Al-Zahrani1,2, David P. Cook1,2, Barbara C. Vanderhyden1,2 and Luc A. Sabourin1,2

1Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Centre for Cancer Therapeutics, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

2Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence to:

Luc A. Sabourin, email: [email protected]

Keywords: androgen receptor; Sox10; bioinformatics; biomarkers; breast cancer

Received: April 10, 2018     Accepted: August 13, 2018     Published: September 07, 2018


The Androgen Receptor (AR) has recently garnered a lot of attention as a potential biomarker and therapeutic target in hormone-dependent cancers, including breast cancer. However, several inconsistencies exist within the literature as to which subtypes of breast cancer express AR or whether it can be used to define its own unique subtype. Here, we analyze 1246 invasive breast cancer samples from the Cancer Genome Atlas and show that human breast cancers that have been subtyped based on their HER2, ESR1, or PGR expression contain four clusters of genes that are differentially expressed across all subtypes. We demonstrate that Sox10 is highly expressed in approximately one-third of all HER2/ESR1/PGR-low tumors and is a candidate biomarker of the triple-negative subtype. Although AR expression is acquired in many breast cancer cases, its expression could not define a unique subtype. Despite several reports stating that AR expression is acquired in HER2/ESR1/PGR triple-negative cancers, here we show that a low percentage of these cancers express AR (~20%). In contrast, AR is highly expressed in HER2-positive or ESR1/PGR-positive cancers (> 95%). Although AR expression cannot be used as an independent subtype biomarker, our analysis shows that routine evaluation of AR expression in tumors which express HER2, ESR1 and/or PGR may identify a unique subset of tumors which would benefit from anti-androgen based therapies.

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