Insulin-like growth factors (IGF) I and II are potent mitogens for breast carcinoma proliferation. IGF-mediated proliferative activity can be markedly enhanced by the presence of specific IGF-binding proteins (IGFBPs). IGFBP-3 has been shown to enhance IGF-mediated growth in a number of systems. Studies have demonstrated IGFBP-3 secretion only in estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast carcinoma cell lines while IGFBP-3 could not be detected in media conditioned by ER-positive cell lines. We investigated whether a relationship exists between ER status and IGFBP-3 mRNA expression in human breast carcinoma biopsy specimens. We have detected IGFBP-3 mRNA in breast carcinoma tissue obtained from patients utilizing in situ hybridization. Quantitation of IGFBP-3 mRNA levels was performed utilizing image cytometry. There was a significantly higher expression of IGFBP-3 mRNA in ER-negative breast carcinoma specimens when compared to the ER-positive specimens. Whether this higher expression of IGFBP-3 mRNA and presumed secretion of IGFBP-3 by ER-negative tumors play a role in the rapid proliferation and poor prognosis of these tumors remains to be determined.

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This work was supported by a grant from the Veterans Administration.

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