Ghrelin expression is associated with a favorable outcome in male breast cancer

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Ghrelin and obestatin are two gastrointestinal peptides, derived from a common precursor. Expression of both peptides have been found in breast cancer tissue and ghrelin has been associated with breast cancer development. Ghrelin expression is associated with longer survival in women diagnosed with invasive and node negative breast cancer. The clinical implications of the peptide expression in male breast cancer are unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate the role and potential clinical value of ghrelin and obestatin in male breast cancer. A tissue microarray of invasive male breast cancer specimens from 197 patients was immunostained with antibodies versus the two peptides. The expression of the peptides was correlated to previously known prognostic factors in breast cancer and to the outcome. No strong correlations were found between ghrelin or obestatin expression and other known prognostic factors. Only ghrelin expression was statistically significantly correlated to breast cancer-specific survival (HR 0.39, 95% CI 0.18–0.83) in univariate analyses and in multivariate models, adjusted for tumor size and node status (HR 0.38, 95% CI 0.17–0.87). HR for obestatin was 0.38 (95% CI 0.11–1.24). Ghrelin is a potential prognostic factor for breast cancer death in male breast cancer. Patients with tumors expressing ghrelin have a 2.5-fold lower risk for breast cancer death than those lacking ghrelin expression. Drugs targeting ghrelin are currently being investigated in clinical studies treating metabolic or nutritional disorders. Ghrelin should be further evaluated in forthcoming studies as a prognostic marker with the aim to be included in decision algorithms.


  • Malin Grönberg
  • Cecilia Nilsson
  • Ida Markholm
  • Ingrid Hedenfalk
  • Carl Blomqvist
  • Lars Holmberg
  • Eva Tiensuu Janson
  • Marie Louise Fjällskog
External organisations
  • Uppsala University
  • Västmanland Hospital
  • University of Helsinki
  • Örebro University Hospital
  • King's College London
  • Lund University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology
Original languageEnglish
Article number13586
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch