Ferritin heavy chain in triple negative breast cancer: a favorable prognostic marker that relates to a cluster of differentiation 8 positive (CD8+) effector T-cell response

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Ferritin heavy chain (FTH1) is a 21-kDa subunit of the ferritin complex, known for its role in iron metabolism, and which has recently been identified as a favorable prognostic protein for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients. Currently, it is not well understood how FTH1 contributes to an anti-tumor response. Here, we explored whether expression and cellular compartmentalization of FTH1 correlates to an effective immune response in TNBC patients. Analysis of the tumor tissue transcriptome, complemented with in silico pathway analysis, revealed that FTH1 was an integral part of an immunomodulatory network of cytokine signaling, adaptive immunity, and cell death. These findings were confirmed using mass spectrometry (MS)-derived proteomic data, and immunohistochemical staining of tissue microarrays. We observed that FTH1 is localized in both the cytoplasm and/or nucleus of cancer cells. However, high cytoplasmic (c) FTH1 was associated with favorable prognosis (Log-rank p = 0.001), whereas nuclear (n) FTH1 staining was associated with adverse prognosis (Log-rank p = 0.019). cFTH1 staining significantly correlated with total FTH1 expression in TNBC tissue samples, as measured by MS analysis (Rs = 0.473, p = 0.0007), but nFTH1 staining did not (Rs = 0.197, p = 0.1801). Notably, IFN γ-producing CD8+ effector T cells, but not CD4+ T cells, were preferentially enriched in tumors with high expression of cFTH1 (p = 0.02). Collectively, our data provide evidence toward new immune regulatory properties of FTH1 in TNBC, which may facilitate development of novel therapeutic targets.


  • Ning Qing Liu
  • Tommaso De Marchi
  • Annemieke M Timmermans
  • Robin Beekhof
  • Anita M A C Trapman-Jansen
  • Renée Foekens
  • Maxime P. Look
  • Carolien H. M. van Deurzen
  • Paul N. Span
  • Fred C G J Sweep
  • Julie Benedicte Brask
  • Vera Timmermans-Wielenga
  • Reno Debets
  • John W. M. Martens
  • John A. Foekens
  • Arzu Umar
Externa organisationer
  • Erasmus University Medical Center


Sidor (från-till)1814-27
Antal sidor14
TidskriftMolecular and Cellular Proteomics
Utgåva nummer7
StatusPublished - 2014 jul
Peer review utfördJa
Externt publiceradJa