Abstract #6014

 Sphingolipids do not only have structural roles for the cell membrane, but also act as effector molecules and second messengers in signal transduction with links to cancer initiation, progression and treatment response. Knowledge of sphingolipid's impact on breast cancer and its prognosis is limited to in vitro data. Clinical data is rare but needed.
 Material and Methods: We analyzed gene expression of 43 proteins from the sphingolipid pathways in different subtypes of breast cancer using microarray data of 1269 tumor samples (test set n=171; validation sets n=1098). Kaplan Meier analysis of disease free survival was performed to examine the prognostic value of different markers. In addition immunohistochemistry was done to determine whether the genes of the sphingolipid rheostat are expressed in cancer or stroma cells of the tumor.
 Results: Significant relationships of several genes of the sphingolipid metabolism with clinical parameters were obtained. Sphingosine kinase 1 (SPHK1), ceramide galactosyltransferase (UGT8), and Ganglioside GD3-Synthase (ST8SIA1) displayed higher expression among ER negative tumors. In contrast, glucosylceramidesynthase (GCS), dihydroceramidesynthases (LASS4, LASS 6) and acid ceramidase (ASAH1) were higher expressed in ER positive samples. Survival analysis revealed a significant worse outcome of patients with high SPHK1 expression. LASS 6 and GCS gene expression had no prognostic impact when the estrogen receptor status was taken into account in multivariate analyses. Immunohistochemistry identified the carcinoma cells as the major source of SPHK1 expression in the tumor.
 Conclusions: These studies of a large cohort of clinical breast cancer samples reveal that sphingolipids do play a role in breast cancer. Enzymes of the sphingolipid metabolism have impact on the prognosis of breast cancer patients and targeting the sphingolipid rheostat can open new treatment options.

Citation Information: Cancer Res 2009;69(2 Suppl):Abstract nr 6014.

Thirty-first San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium Dec 10-14, 2008; San Antonio, TX