Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Expression of integrin α3β1 and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) are positively correlated in human breast cancer

Anshu Aggarwal1, Rami N Al-Rohil2, Anupam Batra3, Paul J Feustel4, David M Jones2 and C Michael DiPersio1*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Cell Biology & Cancer Research, Albany Medical College, Mail Code 165, Room MS-420, 47 New Scotland Avenue, Albany, NY 12208-3479, USA

2 Department of Pathology, Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY 12208, USA

3 Department of Internal Medicine, Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY 12208, USA

4 Center for Neuropharmacology and Neurosciences, Albany Medical College, Albany, NY 12208, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2014, 14:459  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-459

Published: 20 June 2014



Expression of integrin α3β1 is associated with tumor progression, metastasis, and poor prognosis in several cancers, including breast cancer. Moreover, preclinical studies have revealed important pro-tumorigenic and pro-metastatic functions for this integrin, including tumor growth, survival, invasion, and paracrine induction of angiogenesis. Our previously published work in a preclinical breast cancer model showed that integrin α3β1 promotes expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2/PTGS2), a known driver of breast cancer progression. However, the clinical significance of this regulation was unknown. The objective of the current study was to assess the clinical relevance of the relationship between integrin α3β1 and COX2 by testing for their correlated expression among various forms of human breast cancer.


Immunohistochemistry was performed to assess co-expression of α3 and COX2 in specimens of human invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), either on a commercial tissue microarray (n = 59 samples) or obtained from Albany Medical Center archives (n = 68 samples). Immunostaining intensity for the integrin α3 subunit or COX2 was scored, and Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient analysis was performed to assess their co-expression across and within different tumor subtypes or clinicopathologic criteria.


Although expression of integrin α3 or COX2 varied among clinical IDC samples, a statistically significant, positive correlation was detected between α3 and COX2 in both tissue microarrays (rs = 0.49, p < 0.001, n = 59) and archived samples (rs = 0.59, p < 0.0001, n = 68). In both sample sets, this correlation was independent of hormone receptor status, histological grade, or disease stage.


COX2 and α3 are correlated in IDC independently of hormone receptor status or other clinicopathologic features, supporting the hypothesis that integrin α3β1 is a determinant of COX2 expression in human breast cancer. These results support the clinical relevance of α3β1-dependent COX2 gene expression that we reported previously in breast cancer cells. The findings also suggest that COX2-positive breast carcinomas of various subtypes might be vulnerable to therapeutic strategies that target α3β1, and that α3 expression might serve as an independent prognostic biomarker.

Integrin α3β1; COX2; PTGS2; Breast cancer; Invasive ductal carcinoma