Neoplastic transformation of the endocervix associated with downregulation of lactoferrin expression

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Molecular Carcinogenesis








Adenocarcinoma in situ; Apoptosis; Lactoferrin; p53; Steroid hormone receptors


The incidence of cervical adenocarcinomas in young women over the last two decades has increased. Even with increasing knowledge of the role of human papillomavirus in the etiology of adenocarcinoma of the cervix, there is a paucity of data concerning the genetic and epigenetic factors that contribute to the histologic features and biologic behaviors of these tumors. Lactoferrin is a basic glycoprotein found in human milk, secondary granules of neutrophils, and many body secretions, and it has been associated with carcinogenesis of the endometrium, breast, and lymphoid systems. In this study, we examined the expression of lactoferrin in normal human endocervical epithelium and in cervical adenocarcinomas in relation to proliferative index, steroid receptor status, p53 protein expression, and apoptosis. Immunohistochemical and in situ studies demonstrated that lactoferrin protein and mRNA were strikingly downregulated upon neoplastic transformation of the endocervix as early as in adenocarcinoma in situ when compared with the prominent expression exhibited by the normal cervical epithelium. Furthermore, neoplastic transformation of endocervical epithelial cells was accompanied by a pronounced stimulation of proliferation and a substantial reduction in the expression of the estrogen and progesterone receptors and p53 but little or no change in the number of apoptotic cells. In conclusion, we identified lactoferrin as a novel cancer-specific marker of endocervical adenocarcinomas that may be useful in the early detection of the disease, prediction of prognosis, and the development of new therapeutic modalities.