Open Access Open Badges Research article

Clinical implication of HLA class I expression in breast cancer

Koichi Kaneko1, Sumiya Ishigami1*, Yuko Kijima1, Yawara Funasako1, Munetsugu Hirata1, Hiroshi Okumura1, Hiroyuki Shinchi1, Chihaya Koriyama2, Shinichi Ueno1, Heiji Yoshinaka1 and Shoji Natsugoe1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgical Oncology, Breast and Endocrine Surgery, Kagoshima University School of Medicine, Kagoshima, Japan

2 Department of Radiology, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, Kagoshima University, Kagoshima, Japan

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:454  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-454

Published: 20 October 2011



Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-class I molecules on tumor cells have been regarded as crucial sites where cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) can recognize tumor-specific antigens and are strongly associated with anti-tumor activity. However, the clinical impact of HLA class I expression in breast cancer has not been clarified.


A total of 212 breast cancer patients who received curative surgery from 1993 to 2003 were enrolled in the current study. HLA class I expression was examined immunohistochemically using an anti-HLA class I monoclonal antibody. The correlation between HLA class I positivity and clinical factors was analyzed.


The downregulation of HLA class I expression in breast cancer was observed in 69 patients (32.5%). HLA class I downregulation was significantly associated with nodal involvement (p < 0.05), TNM stage (p < 0.05), lymphatic invasion (p < 0.01), and venous invasion (p < 0.05). Patients with preserved HLA class I had significantly better disease-free interval (DFI) than those with loss of HLA class I (p < 0.05). However, in multivariable analysis, HLA class I was not selected as one of the independent prognostic factors of disease-free interval.


The examination of HLA class I expression is useful for the prediction of tumor progression and recurrent risk of breast cancer via the antitumor immune system.

HLA class I; survival; T cell immunology; antitumor activity