Background: APOBEC3B was recently identified as a gain-of-function enzymatic source of mutagenesis, which may offer novel therapeutic options with molecules that specifically target this enzyme. In primary breast cancer, APOBEC3B mRNA is deregulated in a substantial proportion of cases and its expression is associated with poor prognosis. However, its expression in breast cancer metastases, which are the main causes of breast cancer-related death, remained to be elucidated.
Patients and methods: RNA was isolated from 55 primary breast cancers and paired metastases, including regional lymph node (N = 20) and distant metastases (N = 35). APOBEC3B mRNA levels were measured by RT-qPCR. Expression levels of the primary tumors and corresponding metastases were compared, including subgroup analysis by estrogen receptor (ER/ESR1) status.
Results: Overall, APOBEC3B mRNA levels of distant metastases were significantly higher as compared to the corresponding primary breast tumor (P = 0.0015), an effect that was not seen for loco-regional lymph node metastases (P = 0.23). Subgroup analysis by ER-status showed that increased APOBEC3B levels in distant metastases were restricted to metastases arising from ER-positive primary breast cancers (P = 0.002). However, regarding ERnegative primary tumors, only loco-regional lymph node metastases showed increased APOBEC3B expression when compared to the corresponding primary tumor (P = 0.028).
Conclusion: APOBEC3B mRNA levels are significantly higher in breast cancer metastases as compared to the corresponding ER-positive primary tumors. This suggests a potential role for APOBEC3B in luminal breast cancer progression, and consequently, a promising role for anti-APOBEC3B therapies in advanced stages of this frequent form of breast cancer.

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Journal PLoS ONE
Sieuwerts, A.M, Schrijver, W.A.M.E, Dalm, S.U, de Weerd, V, Moelans, C.B, ter Hoeve, N.D, … van Deurzen, C.H.M. (2017). Progressive APOBEC3B mRNA expression in distant breast cancer metastases. PLoS ONE, 12(1). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171343