Nuclear forkhead box protein P1 (N-FOXP1) expression in invasive breast cancer has been documented in the literature. However, the FOXP1 expression patterns at different stages of breast cancer progression are largely unknown, and the significance of cytoplasmic FOXP1 (C-FOXP1) expression in breast cancer has not been well illustrated. The aims of this study were to investigate FOXP1 expression patterns in invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) and usual ductal hyperplasia (UDH), and to analyze the clinicopathological relevance of C-FOXP1 and its prognostic value in IDC.
N-FOXP1 and C-FOXP1 expression in cases of IDC, DCIS, ADH and UDH was determined using immunohistochemistry. The correlation between C-FOXP1 expression and clinicopathological parameters as well as the overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) rates of patients with IDC were analyzed.
Exclusive N-FOXP1 expression was found in 85.0% (17/20), 40.0% (8/20), 12.2% (5/41) and 10.8% (9/83) of UDH, ADH, DCIS, and IDC cases, respectively, and exclusive C-FOXP1 expression was observed in 0% (0/20), 0% (0/20), 4.9% (2/41), and 31.3% (26/83) of the cases, respectively. Both N- and C-FOXP1 staining were observed in 15.0% (3/20), 60.0% (12/20), 82.9% (34/41) and 48.2% (40/83) of the above cases, respectively, while complete loss of FOXP1 expression was observed in only 9.6% (8/83) of IDC cases. Estrogen receptor (ER) expression in C-FOXP1-positive IDC cases (31/66, 47.0%) was significantly lower than that in C-FOXP1-negative cases (13/17, 76.5%) (p = 0.030). Calpain II expression was observed in 83.3% (55/66) of C-FOXP1-positive IDC cases, which was significantly higher than that in C-FOXP1-negative cases (9/17, 52.9%) (p = 0.007). Calpain II was significantly associated with pAKT (p = 0.029), pmTOR (p = 0.011), p4E-BP1 (p < 0.001) and p-p70S6K (p = 0.003) expression levels. The 10-year OS and DFS rates of the C-FOXP1-positive patients were 60.5% and 48.7%, respectively, both of which were lower than those of the C-FOXP1-negative patients (93.3, 75.3%). The OS curve showed a dramatic impact of C-FOXP1 status on OS (p = 0.045).
Cytoplasmic relocalization of FOXP1 protein was a frequent event in breast IDC. Calpain II might play an important role in nucleocytoplasmic trafficking of FOXP1 and the AKT pathway might be involved in this process. C-FOXP1 expression was inversely associated with ER expression and might be a predictor of poor OS in patients with IDC.