A comparative biomarker study of 514 matched cases of male and female breast cancer reveals gender-specific biological differences.
Male breast cancer remains understudied despite evidence of rising incidence. Using a co-ordinated multi-centre approach, we present the first large scale biomarker study to define and compare hormone receptor profiles and survival between male and female invasive breast cancer. We defined and compared hormone receptor profiles and survival between 251 male and 263 female breast cancers matched for grade, age, and lymph node status. Tissue microarrays were immunostained for ER?, ER?1, -2, -5, PR, PRA, PRB and AR, augmented by HER2, CK5/6, 14, 18 and 19 to assist typing. Hierarchical clustering determined differential nature of influences between genders. Luminal A was the most common phenotype in both sexes. Luminal B and HER2 were not seen in males. Basal phenotype was infrequent in both. No differences in overall survival at 5 or 10 years were observed between genders. Notably, AR-positive luminal A male breast cancer had improved overall survival over female breast cancer at 5 (P = 0.01, HR = 0.39, 95% CI = 0.26-0.87) but not 10 years (P = 0.29, HR = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.46-1.26) and both 5 (P = 0.04, HR = 0.37, 95% CI = 0.07-0.97) and 10 years (P = 0.04, HR = 0.43, 95% CI = 0.12-0.97) in the unselected group. Hierarchical clustering revealed common clusters between genders including total PR-PRA-PRB and ER?1/2 clusters. A striking feature was the occurrence of ER? on distinct clusters between genders. In female breast cancer, ER? clustered with PR and its isoforms; in male breast cancer, ER? clustered with ER? isoforms and AR. Our data supports the hypothesis that breast cancer is biologically different in males and females suggesting implications for clinical management. With the incidence of male breast cancer increasing this provides impetus for further study.