Late recurrence of breast carcinoma metastasis to the hypopharynx: a case report
- Chisako Izumi†1,
- Kiyoshi Misawa†1Email author,
- Shiori Endo1,
- Kenichi Sugiyama1,
- Daiki Mochizuki1,
- Atsushi Imai1,
- Masato Mima1,
- Yuki Misawa1,
- Takashi Yamatodani1 and
- Hiroyuki Mineta1
© The Author(s). 2016
Received: 8 March 2016
Accepted: 25 April 2016
Published: 11 May 2016
We report a rare case of a patient with a hypopharyngeal metastasis from breast cancer.
Isolated breast cancer metastasis to the hypopharynx has been previously reported in only one autopsy case. Herein, we report a 56-year-old woman with metastases to the hypopharynx almost 24 years after receiving a mastectomy and chemotherapy to treat primary breast carcinoma. We believe that she is the first patient to be treated for metastatic breast carcinoma to the hypopharynx. The hypopharyngeal tumor reduced in size after administration of an oral aromatase inhibitor. The patient has remained alive with a preserved larynx for three years.
Breast cancer metastasis to the hypopharynx is an extremely rare event.
KeywordsHypopharynx Breast carcinoma metastasis E-cadherin VEGFR2 Aromatase inhibitor
In women, breast cancer is diagnosed in approximately 23 % of all cancer cases, which is the highest proportion amongst all cancer types and accounts for approximately 7.6 million deaths worldwide each year. Approximately 90 % of these deaths are due to metastatic dissemination of the disease (Cummings et al. 2014). In one study, the most common sites of the first metastasis of breast cancer were the bone (35 %), lungs (23 %), skin (22 %), and regional lymph nodes (16 %) during an average observation period of 3.6 years (range 0.8–6.4 years) (Kamby et al. 1988). The incidence of metastatic carcinoma in the hypopharynx is extremely low. To our knowledge, only one autopsy case has been previously reported (Nguyen and Weitzner 1983).
Here, we report a case of dormant breast carcinoma metastasis to the hypopharynx. We also evaluated E-cadherin and VEGFR2 expression levels and methylation statuses in order to help elucidate the mechanism of dormant ER-positive breast cancer metastasis in this case.
E-cadherin, VEGF-A, and VEGFR2 expression and methylation analyses
Primer list of methylation analysis
Metastatic breast cancer causes symptoms that differ based on the location of the metastasis (Weng et al. 2014). This patient was referred to our hospital after complaining of dyspnea upon exertion. The metastatic breast cancer was difficult to diagnose from the observation of the mucosal hypopharyngeal surface. To ascertain distant metastatic breast carcinoma, immunohistochemistry should be performed to detect specific mark-ers (Kamby et al. 1988) (Weng et al. 2014). At least two types of markers must be evaluated: markers that are expressed similarly in the original and metastatic lesions and markers that can be used to differentiate between metastatic lesions and surrounding components (Zhang et al. 2013).
Approximately 20–40 % of patients with ER-positive breast cancer eventually develop recurrences in distant organs, and half of these events occur at least 5 years after diagnosis of the primary tumor. This phenomenon is especially pronounced in patients with ER-positive breast cancer, suggesting that E-positive cancer cells may remain dormant for a protracted period, despite adjuvant therapy (Zhang et al. 2013). Late recurrence is thought to be to the result of cancerous cells becoming activated from a dormant state, in which little or no de novo DNA transcription occurs and minimal protein translation from RNA occurs only to maintain the vegetative functions that sustain cell viability (Meltzer 1990). These findings suggest that the presence of certain cellular receptors may correlate with biological behavior of tumors, as manifested by differences in response to therapy and metastatic distributions.
Many human metastatic breast cancer lesions express membranous E-cadherin, whereas their paired primary tumors are E-cadherin-negative (Chao et al. 2010). Although E-cadherin re-expression and accompanying morphological changes have been achieved, any subsequent full or partial mesenchymal to epithelial transition has not been adequately assessed (Chao et al. 2012). E-cadherin re-expression due to loss of methylation suggests a functional mechanism by which the microenvironment modulates the mesenchymal to epithelial phenotypic switch (Taylor et al. 2014; Wendt et al. 2011).
VEGF-A and VEGFR2 are often co-expressed in breast cancer and potentially affect cellular pathways and the expression levels of key proteins that are targeted by endocrine therapy, such as ER (Mele et al. 2010). Expression of tumor-specific VEGFR2 is a predictive marker for response to tamoxifen in breast cancer patients (Ryden et al. 2005a). Elevated VEGF-A and VEGFR2 expression levels are associated with poor prognosis and poor response to tamoxifen therapy, suggesting that the combination of anti-hormone treatment with an anti-angiogenic strategy should be tested in clinical trials (Patel et al. 2010; Ryden et al. 2005b).
Patients with ER-positive breast cancers generally have a more favorable clinical outcomes, better prognoses, and better patterns of recurrence. Anti-estrogens, such as tamoxifen, and aromatase inhibitors, such as letrozole, can effectively control the disease and induce tumor responses in a large proportion of patients (Milani et al. 2014). For many years, tamoxifen was the most widely used first-line hormonal therapy for post-menopausal patients with hormone-sensitive advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Aromatase inhibitors, which have shown superior efficacy in advanced disease when compared with tamoxifen, have now largely replaced tamoxifen as first-line therapy in postmenopausal women (Riemsma et al. 2010).
In conclusion, hypopharyngeal metastasis of breast cancer is extremely rare. This case highlights the importance of immunohistochemical analysis in hypopharyngeal tumor diagnosis. ER, VEGF, and VEGFR2 expression levels are used when prescribing aromatase inhibitors as adjuvant treatment for postmenopausal patients. The patient in this study is currently alive after laryngeal preservation and hypopharyngeal tumor resection 3 years ago. E-cadherin and VEGFR2 expression levels and methylation statuses may be used to improve our understanding of ER-positive breast cancer reactivation after dormancy. However, these associations should be interpreted with caution because we have examined only one case.
CI, KM and KS performed the operation and evaluated the patient. SE and DM revised the manuscript and evaluated the patient. AI, MM, YM, TY and HM reviewed the chart and published literature. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors would like to thank Ms. Yuko Mohri for her excellent technical support.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
The patient consented to the submission of this case report (IRB of Hamamatsu University School of Medicine).
Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
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