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Find the right cancer biomarker for your research using our cancer immunohistochemistry (IHC) guide to breast cancer.
Updated July 6, 2023
IHC is a common method used in the diagnosis of breast cancer and research into breast cancer pathology. These markers are used to determine different breast cancer types, e.g. in situ or invasive carcinoma, distinguishing normal breast cell types, e.g., luminal, basal and myoepithelial, and also proliferation and disease progression3.
Here we look at some of the most common primary IHC markers for breast cancer and some cell type-specific biomarkers. We also recommend specific IHC antibodies for each biomarker.
Aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 family member A1 (ALDH1A1) has been identified as a putative cancer stem cell (CSC) marker in breast cancer1.
Schlafen 11 (SLFN11) is emerging as an important regulator of cellular response to DNA damage. Preclinical and emerging clinical trial data suggest that SLFN11 is a predictive biomarker of response to a wide range of therapeutics that cause DNA damage, raising exciting possibilities for its clinical application2.
Determining the distribution of estrogen receptor alpha (ER-α) in breast cancer samples is an important initial step for the diagnosis and treatment evaluation of the disease4. Approximately 70% of breast cancer samples will give a positive staining signal for ER-α making it a crucial biomarker for breast cancer diagnosis5. ER-α is a nuclear protein with a ligand-dependent transcription factor function. It is also most commonly detected in both luminal A and B subtypes of breast cancer5.
Figure: Immunohistochemical staining of paraffin-embedded human breast carcinoma tissue with ab32063 at a dilution of 1/5000. The secondary antibody used was Goat Anti-Rabbit IgG H&L (HRP Polymer). The sample is counter-stained with hematoxylin. Antigen retrieval was heat mediated using ab93684 (Tris/EDTA buffer, pH 9.0).
IHC stain (marker localization):
Recommended IHC antibody: Recombinant Anti-Estrogen Receptor alpha antibody [E115] - ChIP Grade (ab32063)
The progesterone receptor (PR) is another biomarker important for the initial diagnosis and evaluation of breast cancer4. PR is known to be induced by ER-α and plays a key role in ER-α protein regulation. PGR as a biomarker is therefore commonly used as an indicator of ER-α function6. PR is highly expressed in luminal A-type breast cancer tissue and is associated with a good prognosis7.