Expression of cyclooxygenase-1 and cyclooxygenase-2 in human breast cancer

Daniel Hwang, David Scollard, Jane Byrne, Edward Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

598 Scopus citations


Background: Numerous studies have demonstrated that the levels of prostaglandins are greater in various cancers, including breast cancer and colon cancer, than in normal tissues. In particular, the inducible form of cyclooxygenase (COX), the rate-limiting enzyme in prostaglandin biosynthesis, is overexpressed in colon tumors. Epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that the use of aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce the risk of colon cancer and, to a lesser extent, the risk of breast cancer. NSAIDs are known to inhibit COX, suggesting that the beneficial effect of NSAIDs in colon cancer may be related to COX overexpression in this disease. This possibility led us to ask whether COX is also overexpressed in breast cancers. Methods: Surgical specimens from 44 patients with breast cancer who had undergone lumpectomy or mastectomy were analyzed by immunoblot analysis and immunohistochemical analysis to determine the expression profile of the constitutively expressed form of cyclooxygenase (COX-1) and the inducible form (COX-2); the specimens from 14 patients included normal breast tissue. Results: Expression of COX-1 protein was substantially higher in 30 of 44 tumor samples than in any of the 14 normal tissue specimens. Immunoblot analysis revealed extremely high levels of COX- 2 protein in two tumor samples. Immunohistochemical staining of specimens that expressed COX-1 and/or COX-2 revealed that COX-1 was localized in stromal cells adjacent to the tumor but not in tumor cells. In contrast, COX- 2 was localized primarily in tumor cells but also appeared in stromal cells. Conclusion: Our results suggest that overexpression of COX may not be unique to colon cancer and may be a feature common to other epithelial tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-460
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 18 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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