The p53 protein was identified in primary breast carcinomas by specific binding of PAb1801 and PAb240 antibodies. Using sodium dodecyl sulfate electrophoresis followed by immunoblotting on nitrocellulose membrane, the p53 protein was identified in 36 nuclear fractions obtained from 60 primary breast cancers; semiquantitation of p53 was performed by densitometric scanning. The total cathepsin D content, the estrogen and progesterone receptor concentration values and the axillary lymph node involvement were also assessed. Tumors expressing p53 had significantly higher levels of cathepsin D than those in which p53 was undetectable. p53 expression was strongly associated with low or negative estrogen receptor values; progesterone receptor concentrations were also significantly higher in p53-negative tumors than in those tumors with detectable p53 levels. Finally, a significant relationship between p53 expression and lymph node metastasis was observed. It was concluded that a positive association between p53 and cathepsin D values exists which is of prognostic interest in that both cathepsin D and p53 are associated with a high tumor grade and metastatic activity.
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