A new study has found that E-cadherin expression may be a useful prognostic marker for triple negative breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancer is a subtype of breast cancer that is estrogen receptor negative (ER-), progesterone receptor negative (PR-), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) negative. E-cadherins are a type of protein necessary for breast cell adhesion (they help keep the cells in breast tissue together). Loss of E-cadherin expression reduces the strength of the bonds between cells, which may enable cancer cells to invade surrounding tissues. Although an association between level of E-cadherin expression and outcome has been observed in all types of breast cancer, little is known about the significance of E-cadherin expression levels in triple negative breast cancer.

The study included 574 women who had undergone surgery for primary breast cancer. Women with invasive lobular carcinomas (which is characterized by markedly reduced E-cadherin expression) were excluded from the study. One hundred and twenty-three (21.4%) of the study participants had triple negative disease. Generally speaking, the triple negative patients were more likely to have lymph node metastases and a poorer prognosis than the other participants.

Reduced levels of E-cadherin were found in 238 (41.5%) of the 574 breast cancer cases and was prevalent in cases of triple negative breast cancer and those with positive lymph nodes. Furthermore, the prognosis of patients with E-cadherin-negative expression was significantly worse than that of E-cadherin-positive patients among the triple negative breast cancer cases, especially for those with stage II tumors.

Foods that increase E-cadherin expression

Maintaining adequate levels of E-cadherin expression appears to be important in all types of breast cancer since loss of E-cadherin expression is associated with progression of the disease. According to the above study, part of known aggressive profile of triple negative disease may be due to its tendency toward lower E-cadherin expression. However, this clearly is only part of the explanation since lobular breast cancer, which tends to have low levels of E-cadherin expression, is not known for its aggressiveness. The foods below have been shown to increase E-cadherin expression while reducing the risk of breast cancer:

Bell peppers
Bok choy
On the other hand, an algal toxin that can accumulate in shellfish has been shown to cause the selective disruption of E-cadherin in breast cancer cells.