Expression of HOX transcript antisense intergenic RNA (HOTAIR), a large intergenic noncoding RNA (lincRNA), has been described as a metastases-associated lincRNA in various cancers including breast, liver and colon cancer cancers. We sought to determine if expression of HOTAIR could be used as a surrogate for assessing nodal metastases and evaluated RNA in situ hybridization (RNA-ISH) assay in a tissue microarray constructed from 133 breast cancer patients. The prognostic value of HOTAIR was further validated in large cohorts using The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) breast cancer subjects. RNA-ISH analysis was successful in 94 cases (17% cases scored 0, 32.9% scored 1, 30.8% scored 2, and 19.1% scored 3). The expression of HOTAIR did not correlate with nodal metastasis regardless of the scoring intensity or with other study parameters (age, tumor size and grade, expression status). Further analysis of TCGA dataset showed that HOTAIR expression was lower in ductal carcinomas but higher in ER-negative tumors. Overexpression of HOTAIR was not associated with nodal metastases or prognosis in ER-positive patients. Its function as a poor prognostic indicator in ER-negative patients was restricted to node-positive patients. HOTAIR appears to be a marker for lymphatic metastases rather than hematogenous metastases in ER-negative patients.
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