Changes in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) content in cancers have been reported with controversial results, probably due to small sample size and variable pathological conditions. In this study, mtDNA content in 302 breast tumor/surrounding normal tissue pairs were evaluated and correlated with the clinico-pathological characteristics of tumors. Overall, mtDNA content in tumor tissues is significantly lower than that in the surrounding normal tissues, P < 0.00001. MtDNA content in tumor tissues decreased with increasing tumor size. However, when the tumor is very large (>50cm 3), mtDNA content started to increase. Similarly, mtDNA content decreased from grades 0 and I to grade II tumors, but increased from grade II to grade III tumors. Tumors with somatic mtDNA alterations in coding region have significantly higher mtDNA content than tumors without somatic mtDNA alterations (P < 0.001). Tumors with somatic mtDNA alterations in the D-Loop region have significantly lower mtDNA content (P < 0.001). Patients with both low and high mtDNA content in tumor tissue have significantly higher hazard of death than patients with median levels of mtDNA content. mtDNA content in tumor tissues change with tumor size, grade, and ER/PR status; significant deviation from the median level of mtDNA content is associated with poor survival.
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