Trefoil factor-1 upregulation in estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer correlates with an increased risk of bone metastasis.
Bone is one of the most preferred sites of metastatic spread from different cancer types, including breast cancer. However, different breast cancer subtypes exhibit distinct metastatic behavior in terms of kinetics and anatomic sites of relapse. Despite advances in the diagnosis, the identification of patients at high-risk of bone recurrence is still an unmet clinical need. We conducted a retrospective analysis, by gene expression and immunohistochemical assays, on 90 surgically resected breast cancer samples collected from patients who experienced no evidence of distant metastasis, bone or visceral metastasis in order to identify a primary tumor-derived marker of bone recurrence. We identified trefoil factor-1 (pS2 or TFF1) as strictly correlated to bone metastasis from ER+ breast cancer. In silico analysis was carried out to confirm this observation, linking gene expression data with clinical characteristics available from public clinical datasets. Then, we investigated TFF1 function in ER+ breast cancer tumorigenesis and bone metastasis through xenograft in vivo models of MCF 7 breast cancer with gain and loss of function of TFF1. As a response to microenvironmental features in primary tumors, TFF1 expression could modulate ER+ breast cancer growth, leading to a less proliferative phenotype. Our results showed it may not play a role in late stages of bone metastasis, however further studies are warranted to understand whether it could contribute in the early-stages of the metastatic cascade. In conclusion, TFF1 upregulation in primary ER+ breast cancer could be useful to identify patients at high-risk of bone metastasis. This could help clinicians in the identification of patients who likely can develop bone metastasis and who could benefit from personalized treatments and follow-up strategies to prevent metastatic disease.