Tubular carcinoma (TC) is a rare, luminal A subtype of breast carcinoma with excellent prognosis, for which adjuvant chemotherapy is usually contraindicated.
To examine the levels of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor expression in cases of TC and well-differentiated invasive ductal carcinoma as compared to normal breast glands and to determine if any significant differences could be detected via molecular testing.
We examined ER and progesterone receptor via immunohistochemistry in tubular (N = 27), mixed ductal/tubular (N = 16), and well-differentiated ductal (N = 27) carcinomas with comparison to surrounding normal breast tissue. We additionally performed molecular subtyping of 10 TCs and 10 ductal carcinomas via the PAM50 assay.
Although ER expression was high for all groups, TC had statistically significantly lower ER staining percentage (ER%) (P = .003) and difference in ER expression between tumor and accompanying normal tissue (P = .02) than well-differentiated ductal carcinomas, with mixed ductal/tubular carcinomas falling between these 2 groups. Mean ER% was 79%, 87%, and 94%, and mean tumor-normal ER% differences were 13.6%, 25.9%, and 32.6% in tubular, mixed, and ductal carcinomas, respectively. Most tumors that had molecular subtyping were luminal A (9 of 10 tubular and 8 of 10 ductal), and no significant differences in specific gene expression between the 2 groups were identified.
Tubular carcinoma exhibited decreased intensity in ER expression, closer to that of normal breast parenchyma, likely as a consequence of a high degree of differentiation. Lower ER% expression by TC may represent a potential pitfall when performing commercially available breast carcinoma prognostic assays that rely heavily on ER-related gene expression.