Elevated plasma transforming growth factor-β1 levels in breast cancer patients decrease after surgical removal of the tumor

F. M. Kong, M. S. Anscher, T. Murase, B. D. Abbott, J. D. Iglehart, R. L. Jirtle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


Objective: The authors determined whether untreated breast cancer patients have elevated plasma levels of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). Summary Background Data: Increased plasma TGF-β1 levels recently were found after chemotherapy in patients with advanced breast cancer. However, it currently is unknown whether this elevation in plasma TGF-β1 is caused by chemotherapy-induced normal tissue damage or whether it results from the presence of the tumor. Methods: An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was used to measure plasma TGF-β1 levels in 26 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients before and after definitive surgery. Patients were grouped by postoperative tumor status: 1) negative lymph nodes (group 1); 2) positive lymph nodes (group 2); and 3) overt residual disease (group 3). The site of TGF-β1 production in the tumors was localized by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. Results: Plasma TGF-β1 levels were elevated preoperatively in 81% of the patients; TGF-β2 and TGF-β3 were undetectable. The preoperative TGF-β1 levels in the three patient groups were similar; however, the postoperative plasma TGF-β1 levels differed by disease status. The mean plasma TGF-β1 level in group 1 (n = 12) normalized after surgery (19.3 ± 3.2 vs. 5.5 ± 1.0 ng/mL, p < 0.081). In contrast, the mean plasma TGF-β1 levels remained above normal in both group 2 (n = 9) and group 3 (n = 5) after surgery. Transforming growth factor-β1 expression was found to be preferentially increased in the tumor stroma. Conclusions: Breast tumors result in increased plasma TGF-β1 levels in 81% of patients. After surgical removal of the primary tumor, the plasma TGF-β1 level normalizes in the majority of patients; persistently elevated levels correlate with the presence of lymph node metastases or overt residual tumor. These findings suggest that the usefulness of TGF-β1 as a potential plasma marker for breast tumors deserves further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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