Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) respond to altered physiological conditions to alleviate the threat. Production of the 70 kDa heat shock protein (HSP70) is up-regulated to protect proteins from degradation. Sequestosome-1 (p62) binds to altered proteins and the p62-protein complex is degraded by autophagy. P62 is also a regulator of intracellular kinase activity and cell differentiation. We hypothesized that the PBMC response to a malignant breast mass involves elevated production of HSP70 and a decrease in intracellular p62. In this study 46 women had their breast mass excised. PBMCs were isolated and intracellular levels of HSP70 and p62 were quantitated by ELISA. Differences between women with a benign or malignant breast mass were determined. A breast malignancy was diagnosed in 38 women (82.6%) while 8 had a benign lesion. Mean intracellular HSP70 levels were 79.3 ng/ml in PBMCs from women with a malignant lesion as opposed to 44.2 ng/ml in controls (p = 0.04). The mean PBMC p62 level was 2.3 ng/ml in women with a benign breast lesion as opposed to 0.6 ng/ml in those with breast cancer (p < 0.001). Mean p62 levels were lowest in women with invasive carcinoma and a positive lymph node biopsy when compared to those with in-situ carcinoma or absence of lymphadenopathy, respectively. Intracellular HSP70 and p62 levels in PBMCs differ between women with a malignant or benign breast lesion. These measurements may be of value in the preoperative triage of women with a breast mass.
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