High IKKα expression is associated with reduced time to recurrence and cancer specific survival in oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer

Lindsay Bennett, Jean Quinn, Pamela McCall, Elizabeth A. Mallon, Paul G. Horgan, Donald C. McMillan, Andrew Paul, Joanne Edwards

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The aim of our study was to examine the relationship between tumour IKKα expression and breast cancer recurrence and survival. Immunohistochemistry was employed in a discovery and a validation tissue microarray to assess the association of tumour IKKα expression and clinico-pathological characteristics. After siRNA-mediated silencing of IKKα, cell viability and apoptosis were assessed in MCF7 and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. In both the discovery and validation cohorts, associations observed between IKKα and clinical outcome measures were potentiated in oestrogen receptor (ER) positive Luminal A tumours. In the discovery cohort, cytoplasmic IKKα was associated with disease-free survival (p = 0.029) and recurrence-free survival on tamoxifen (p < 0.001) in Luminal A tumours. Nuclear IKKα and a combination of cytoplasmic and nuclear IKKα (total tumour cell IKKα) were associated with cancer-specific survival (p = 0.012 and p = 0.007, respectively) and recurrence-free survival on tamoxifen (p = 0.013 and p < 0.001, respectively) in Luminal A tumours. In the validation cohort, cytoplasmic IKKα was associated with cancer-specific survival (p = 0.023), disease-free survival (p = 0.002) and recurrence-free survival on tamoxifen (p = 0.009) in Luminal A tumours. Parallel experiment with breast cancer cells in vitro demonstrated the non-canonical NF-κB pathway was inducible by exposure to lymphotoxin in ER-positive MCF7 cells and not in ER-negative MDA-MB-231 cells. Reduction in IKKα expression by siRNA transfection increased levels of apoptosis and reduced cell viability in MCF7 but not in MDA-MB-231 cells. IKKα is an important determinant of poor outcome in patients with ER-positive invasive ductal breast cancer and thus may represent a potential therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1633-1644
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number7
Early online date22 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • breast cancer
  • oestrogen receptor
  • IKKα
  • non canonical NF-kB pathway
  • recurrence on tamoxifen
  • tumour markers
  • endocrine treated breast cancer

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