Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a heterogeneous subtype with varying disease outcomes. Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) are frequent in TNBC and have been shown to correlate with outcome, suggesting an immunogenic component in this subtype. However, other factors intrinsic to the cancer cells may also influence outcome. To identify proteins and molecular pathways associated with recurrence in TNBC, 34 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) primary TNBC tumors were investigated by global proteomic profiling using mass spectrometry. Approximately, half of the patients were lymph node-negative and remained free of local or distant metastasis within 10 y follow-up, while the other half developed distant metastasis. Proteomic profiling identified >4,000 proteins, of which 63 exhibited altered expression in primary tumors of recurrence versus recurrence-free patients. Importantly, downregulation of proteins in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I antigen presentation pathways were enriched, including TAP1, TAP2, CALR, HLA-A, ERAP1 and TAPBP, and were associated with significantly shorter recurrence-free and overall survival. In addition, proteins involved in cancer cell proliferation and growth, including GBP1, RAD23B, WARS and STAT1, also exhibited altered expression in primary tumors of recurrence versus recurrence-free patients. The association between the antigen-presentation pathway and outcome were validated in a second sample set of 10 primary TNBC tumors and corresponding metastases using proteomics and in a large public gene expression database of 249 TNBC and 580 basal-like breast cancer cases. Our study demonstrates that downregulation of antigen presentation is a key mechanism for TNBC cells to avoid immune surveillance, allowing continued growth and spread.
- Basal-like breast cancer
- MHC class I antigen presentation pathway
- formalin-fixed paraffin embedded
- major histocompatibility complex
- mass spectrometry
- triple-negative breast cancer