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Molecular Diagnostics

Breast osteoblast-like cells: a new biomarker for the management of breast cancer

British Journal of Cancervolume 119pages11291132 (2018) | Download Citation




In this study, we investigated the relationship between the expression of the main in situ markers of breast cancer and the presence of breast osteoblast-like cells (BOLCs).


We collected 100 breast biopsies. Serial paraffin sections were obtained from each biopsy to perform histological classifications and immunohistochemical analyses (RUNX2, RANKL, vimentin, TGFβ, Ki67, CD44, ER, PR and HER2).


Linear regression analysis showed a positive and significant correlation between the number of BOLCs and the expression of EMT-related markers (vimentin and TGFβ), Ki67 and ER. Conversely, we observed an inverse correlation between the number of CD44-positive breast cancer cells and the BOLCs. No significant differences were observed between the number of BOLCs and the HER2 scores.


Morphological and molecular characterisation of BOLCs can lay the foundations towards understanding the biological basis of the formation of breast microcalcifications, and breast cancer metastasis to bone. The data here reported may be useful for the identification of breast lesions with high potential to develop bone metastasis.

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The authors wish to thank Dr. Sara Fazi and Sara Ciuffa for technical support.

Author contributions

M.S., N.U., O.S. and E.B. contributed to study design and conduct. R.B. analysed the data and provided statistical support. M.S., R.B. and E.B. contributed to acquisition of data. All authors made substantial contributions to interpretation of data, were involved in drafting the manuscript and/or revising it critically for important intellectual content, approved the final version for submission and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

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Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: Manuel Scimeca, Nicoletta Urbano.

  2. These authors contributed equally: Orazio Schillaci, Elena Bonanno.


  1. Department of Biomedicine and Prevention, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Via Montpellier 1, Rome, 00133, Italy

    • Manuel Scimeca
    •  & Orazio Schillaci
  2. University of San Raffaele, Via di Val Cannuta 247, 00166, Rome, Italy

    • Manuel Scimeca
  3. OrchideaLab S.r.l, Via del Grecale 6, Morlupo, Rome, Italy

    • Manuel Scimeca
  4. Nuclear Medicine, Policlinico “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy

    • Nicoletta Urbano
  5. Department of Experimental Medicine, University “Tor Vergata”, Via Montpellier 1, Rome, 00133, Italy

    • Rita Bonfiglio
    •  & Elena Bonanno
  6. IRCCS Neuromed, Pozzilli, Italy

    • Orazio Schillaci
  7. “Diagnostica Medica” and “Villa dei Platani”, Avellino, Italy

    • Elena Bonanno


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests. The study is original and the manuscript has not been published yet and is not being considered for publication. All authors have agreed with the submission in its present (and subsequent) forms.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

The study was conducted in compliance with the provisions of the Declaration of Helsinki and in accordance with the International Standards of Good Clinical Practice. The final protocol, amendments and informed consent documentation were reviewed and approved by an institutional review board or independent ethics committee(s) (reference number #94.13).


This work is published under the standard license to publish agreement. After 12 months the work will become freely available and the license terms will switch to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

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Correspondence to Elena Bonanno.

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