Loss of antigenicity in stored sections of breast cancer tissue microarrays.
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Immunohistochemical characterization of tumor tissues in epidemiological studies is a promising approach to identify breast cancer subtypes with distinct etiology. The recent development of the tissue microarray (TMA) technique allows for standardized, rapid, and cost-effective immunohistochemical characterization of many cases, which is critical in epidemiological studies. Sectioning paraffin blocks at different times results in loss of material, which can be reduced by preparing many sections each time a block is cut. However, data suggest that staining intensity declines in whole sections prepared from conventional paraffin blocks with storage time, resulting in false-negative results. This problem would be accentuated in TMAs because of the limited tissue representation of each case. To evaluate this concern, we prepared a single TMA block from 125 invasive breast carcinomas collected in a population-based case-control study conducted in Poland and compared estrogen receptor (ER-alpha), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) expression in sections cut and stored for 6 months at room temperature with sections cut from the same TMA block and stained on the same day. Percentage of positive cases for stored versus fresh sections was similar for ER (59.0%) but significantly higher in fresh sections for PR (56.3% versus 64.1%, P = 0.01) and HER2 (45.5% versus 64.4%, P < 0.001). Among cases positive in both stored and fresh sections, the median percentage of immunoreactive cells was significantly reduced and the staining intensity was consistently lower in stored compared with fresh sections. We conclude that loss of immunoreactivity is an important problem in TMAs of breast cancer. Improved methods for sectioning TMAs and storing tissue sections aimed at reducing loss of immunoreactivity are critical for the use of TMAs in epidemiological studies.
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