Background: Increasing evidence suggests that E-selectin contributes to tumour growth and metastasis, possibly by increasing angiogenesis and the adhesion of tumour cells to endothelial cells at distant sites. This study aimed to examine the relationship between preoperative levels of circulating soluble E-selectin and breast cancer. Methods: Sixty-four consecutive women undergoing surgery for invasive breast cancer were studied prospectively. Venous blood samples were collected before the operation. A control group consisted of 16 patients with a benign breast tumour (eight with fibrocystic disease and eight with fibroadenoma). Serum concentrations of soluble E-selectin were measured by the quantitative sandwich enzyme immunoassay technique and compared with clinicopathological information. Results: The mean(s.d.) serum level of soluble E-selectin in patients with invasive breast cancer was 73.7(20.9) ng/ml, compared with 36.3(5.6) ng/ml in the control group (P < 0.001). Furthermore, the serum levels of soluble E-selectin were significantly higher in women with oestrogen receptor-negative tumours (P = 0.001), poorly differentiated tumours (P < 0.001), more advanced primary tumour stage (P < 0.001), involved lymph nodes (P < 0.001), distant metastases (P < 0.001) and more advanced tumour node metastasis (TNM) stage (P < 0.001). On multivariate analysis, TNM stage (P < 0.001) was found to be an independent factor with regard to higher serum levels of soluble E-selectin. Conclusion: Preoperative serum levels of soluble E-selectin might reflect the severity of invasive breast cancer; further evaluation is warranted.
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