Commercially available immunoradiometric assays were used for pS2 and total cathepsin D determination in the cytosol fraction obtained from 266 primary breast cancers. We show that pS2 and cathepsin D values were significantly associated (Spearman's rank correlation: P<0.0001) in tumours from lymph node-positive patients (N+), while such association did not reach significance in tumours taken from patients with negative lymph nodes (N-). Moreover, cathepsin D concentrations in pS2-rich tumours (pS2 above the median value, 5 ng mg(-1) protein) were significantly higher (Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon's rank-sum test: P = 0.00001) than those obtained in the samples expressing less than 5 ng of pS2 per mg of protein. pS2 was also correlated to both the oestrogen receptor (ER) (Spearman's rank correlation: P<0.0001) and the progesterone receptor (PR) (Spearman's rank correlation: P = 0.022). No significant differences in the expression of pS2 and cathepsin D taken from N+ and N- patients were found. Furthermore, no significant differences in pS2 and cathepsin D expression were obtained by stratifying tumours on the basis of their size (T). pS2 and cathepsin D values obtained in ER-positive/PR-positive tumours did not significantly differ from the values obtained in ER-positive/PR-negative and in ER-negative/PR-positive tumours. We conclude that pS2 could have a role in cathepsin D expression, and that it can be used in the assessment of a functioning oestrogen response machinery in those tumours that express only ER.
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